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TEX@SEA: Feliz gets the save as the Rangers get a win

SEATTLE -- The Rangers worked frantically all summer to upgrade their bullpen, and this is how it is supposed to work.

This game at least belonged to the bullpen, from the 88-mph fastball that Darren Oliver threw in the sixth inning -- possibly the biggest pitch of the game -- to the pure heat delivered by Neftali Feliz in the ninth.

When it was over, the Rangers had taken a big step toward a second straight American League West title with a 7-6 victory over the Mariners on a cool Saturday evening at Safeco Field. Four relievers combined to retire 10 straight hitters -- including six by strikeout -- to close out the win for starter Colby Lewis.

"They did a great job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

"Awesome," catcher Mike Napoli said. "They put our bullpen together to shorten games up, and they did just that tonight. They did their jobs."

The Rangers trailed, 4-1, early before rallying to win at the same time the Angels were losing to the Orioles on the other side of the continent. The Rangers now have a 4 1/2-game lead in the division with 10 to play.

As long as the Rangers can maintain at least a four-game lead, then their three-game series with the Angels in Anaheim to end the season is meaningless.

"We've got to take advantage," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "They're losing games, so we've got to win games. Make it easier on us and not give them a chance when we play them again."

The Rangers' magic number is seven. They are also one game behind the Tigers for the second seed in the AL playoffs, which would mean opening at home instead of the road.

"This was a good one to get," first baseman Michael Young said. "Seattle has been playing us tough. That's the point at this time of the year; we just have to keep winning games, lock it down and continue to play good baseball the last couple of weeks."

Josh Hamilton led the Rangers' attack with four hits, including his first home run in a day game this year. He drove in three runs.

Lewis, rescued by a terrific afternoon from his bullpen, went 5 2/3 innings to get the victory, allowing six runs on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven. Four of the runs scored in the second inning on a two-out single by Ichiro Suzuki and a two-run double by Kyle Seager, but the Rangers quickly overcame that.

"I felt really good overall, but I had a couple of brain slips," Lewis said. "I'm just glad we won and glad things worked out the way they did. It was a weird game."

The Rangers trailed, 4-1, going into the third inning but tied it on solo home runs from Elvis Andrus, Hamilton and Beltre off of Mariners starter Anthony Vasquez. They took the lead in the third on a two-run single by Hamilton and a sacrifice fly by Young.

"When we got that 7-4 lead, I thought we would put more runs on the board," Washington said. "But their pitching shut it down. It was all about pitching today."

That was especially true after Lewis gave up a two-run home run to Mike Carp in the fifth. Lewis was done in the sixth after a two-out double by Trayvon Robinson and Oliver started the bullpen parade, retiring Michael Saunders on a grounder to the mound. Oliver was ahead 1-2 in the count with curveballs on the outside, then caught Saunders leaning and busted a fastball inside to get the weak grounder. That was the Mariners' last at-bat of the game with a runner on base.

Oliver then struck out the side in the seventh, him wondering after the game who was the last 40-year-old left-hander to strike out the side in September. But he was just the first act out of the bullpen.

"Just the way 'Wash' drew it up," Oliver said. "We made him look good today."

Michael Gonzalez struck out Carp to start the eighth and Mike Adams retired the next two hitters. Feliz, throwing 16 straight fastballs at 98-99 mph, struck out two of three in the ninth for his 27th save. He did not need his offspeed stuff to close this one out.

"My fastball is my best pitch," Feliz said. "When I've got a good feeling about my fastball, I don't have to do anything else."

He has pitched 14 scoreless innings over 15 career outings against the Mariners. They are 0-for-42 with three walks and 18 strikeouts off him.

"I don't pay attention to that," Feliz said. "I just try to throw strikes and get through my innings."

He did on Saturday night. All four Rangers relievers did, and the division title is that much closer.

"The opportunities have been scarce lately because our offense has been great and the starters have been doing a good job," Adams said. "We still have to be ready. Today everybody fell into their roles and got the job done." Comments