Rangers-Mariners preview

SEATTLE -- You again?

When the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners take the field for the first game of a three-game series Monday afternoon, it will mark the fourth time in just over a week that the two American League West rivals have squared off. What's pretty clear is which team owns the other.

The Rangers (82-55) completed a three-game sweep over Seattle last week and improved to 11-4 against the Mariners this season. Any grain of hope Seattle carried into the series in terms of the AL West race was extinguished by the time Texas hammered the final nail with a 14-1 win last Wednesday.

Along the way, Texas continued to frustrate Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who gave up a costly grand slam in that game to fall to 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA against the Rangers this season. Hernandez, who will be back on the mound for Seattle on Monday, is now 17-23 with a 3.85 ERA in career matchups against Texas.

After his latest outing, a frustrated Hernandez told reporters: "It wasn't good. I was terrible, on my part. I should have gone out there and stepped my level up, but I made a lot of mistakes."

The latest sweep not only knocked Seattle (69-67) out of any kind of pennant contention, it also dealt a significant blow to the Mariners' chances of winning a wild card.

"Nobody is happy," manager Scott Servais said after the 14-1 loss. "We're really disappointed. But there's nothing we can do about it. These games are over. We have to put it behind us and look forward."

The Mariners will get another shot at Texas this week, beginning with Monday afternoon's game at Safeco Field. They'll face a Rangers team that had won seven in a row before dropping the finale of the Houston series 7-6 on Sunday. Despite the loss, the Rangers took control of the AL West during another series win.

"We're feeling good for sure," Elvis Andrus said Sunday. "We're in the driver's seat right now. We have to continue to play hard. We can't take anything for granted. There's a lot of baseball ahead and we have to keep grinding."

The Rangers plan to send lefty Cole Hamels to the mound Monday, and he might be just as motivated as Hernandez to atone for his last start. The Mariners touched up Hamels for six runs off seven hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings his last time out, although the veteran southpaw was able to come away with a no-decision when Texas came back to win 8-7.

That game marked the first time since July 8 that Hamels allowed more than two earned runs in a game, and it came after two previous starts against Seattle that had resulted in a 2-0 record and a 1.93 ERA.

Seattle's Hernandez was originally scheduled to start Tuesday's game, but the team moved him up a day to accommodate hurting left-hander James Paxton. A torn fingernail suffered in his last start has bothered Paxton, so the team decided to give him an extra day off. Last Thursday's off day allowed Hernandez to move up a day and still stay on four day's rest.