SPORTS

Mariners' ace Félix Hernández closes in on 20 wins with 9-2 victory over Rangers

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez smiles in the dugout after the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. The Mariners won 9-2. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez smiles in the dugout after the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. The Mariners won 9-2. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Félix Hernández has a chance at his first 20-win season after completing his own sweep of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.

Seattle's ace worked into the sixth inning Sunday to become the American League's first 18-game winner. The 9-2 victory was Hernández's fifth in as many starts this season against Texas.

"That's what every pitcher wants, winning 20 games," said Hernández, who has at least two more starts.

The right-hander left with two outs in the sixth inning with a stiff pitching elbow, a move the Mariners called precautionary after 105 pitches. He gave up two runs, struck out five and matched a season high with five walks.

"I didn't want to take any chances so I just got him out of the there," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I saw him wiggling his arm. I said, 'What's going on?' and he said, "I'm just a little stiff.' I said, 'Give me the ball.'"

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Hernández (18-9) is expected to make his scheduled start next weekend at the Los Angeles Angels, when he could match his career high with a 19th victory.

"It was a long inning. I got stiff. It's not a big deal." Hernández said. "I've been worse before. I'll be fine."

Robinson Canó's 17th home run, a three-run drive in the fifth, put Seattle up 7-2 and chased Derek Holland (3-3). That came two batters after Kyle Seager's tiebreaking, two-run double, and before Franklin Gutiérrez connected off Ross Ohlendorf.

Hernández walked a batter in the bottom of the fifth after the long wait, but got out of that inning when he snagged Adrián Beltré's liner — and then tossed to ball to his friend and former teammate.

"I was just trying to help him give it to fans. The crowd got a little upset, but it was something between him and me," Hernández said with a smile.

In his first at-bat Sunday, Beltré stepped in the box with a smile on his face, and both made gestures to the other.

A six-time All-Star, Hernández joined Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer as the only pitchers with multiple 18-win seasons for the Mariners. He won 19 games in 2009, the year before he was the AL Cy Young winner.

King Félix is 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA against Texas this year, only the fifth pitcher since 1972 to beat the Rangers five times in the same season. He is the first to accomplish the feat since Bartolo Colón was 6-0 for the Angels against Texas in 2004.

While never able to solve Seattle's ace this season, the Rangers still have a 1 1/2-game division lead over Houston with 13 games to play.

Mitch Moreland hit his 22nd homer for Texas, a one-out solo shot to center in the second. Elvis Andrus had a bloop RBI single against a drawn-in infield after Rougned Odor's one-out triple in the fourth.

"We knew today was going to be a tough day," manager Jeff Banister said. "We had him where his pitch count was kind of in our favor, and you saw some frustration in him along the way. But once he got the lead, he does what he always does."

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