Rapid Reaction: Rangers 8, Mariners 3

SEATTLE -- Elvis Andrus had three more hits before A.J. Pierzynski hit the first pitch following an intentional walk to Adrian Beltre for a game-breaking, three-run home run in the seventh inning. The Texas Rangers ended up cruising past the Seattle Mariners 8-3 Monday night in the opener of a three-game series.

Rangers manager Ron Washington was talking before the game about how much character Andrus has shown this season in climbing out of his .197 hole in late April. The rut was still at .237 in late June.

Andrus is at .261 now, following his third three-hit night in 18 games. His average hasn’t been higher than that since May 31.

Standings remain the same: The Rangers’ second win in four games on this six-game swing visiting the Chicago White Sox and the Pacific Northwest, coupled with the Oakland Athletics’ 8-6 victory at Detroit, kept Texas 2½ games in front of the A’s atop the American League West. That’s been Texas’ division lead at the end of three consecutive days now.

Blackley good enough: The Rangers’ conversion of Travis Blackley from Houston Astros reliever to starter since they acquired him two weeks ago just got better. After lasting only four innings on a strict, 66-pitch limit last week in his Texas debut -- a no-decision against Houston -- the Australian held the team with which he debuted in 2004 to three runs on five hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one while throwing 71 pitches and using his fastball well enough against the mostly punchless M’s.

Kyle Seager’s long solo home run in fourth was Seattle’s only extra-base hit off Blackley. A walk and infield single helped the Mariners load the bases with one out in the third before Brad Miller singled home two runs on a 2-0 fastball Blackley left up and not far enough off the inside corner. But Blackley (2-1) got Franklin Gutierrez to ground into an inning-ending double play started with a bobble, then bazooka-like throw by third baseman Beltre. That kept the game briefly tied at two before Texas took over.

Once Pierzynski’s and Mitch Moreland’s 19th home run, a solo shot in the eight, put Texas way ahead, Neal Cotts, Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers pitched successive scoreless inning to end it.

Gotcha! Texas got a guy who can erase baserunners with a nasty pickoff move when they traded cash considerations on Aug. 14 to Houston for Blackley, whom the Astros had designated for assignment six days earlier. Blackley picked Seattle rookie Brad Miller so far off first base after Miller had singled leading off the bottom of the sixth that Miller was almost halfway to second before he realized Blackley had thrown to first base instead of delivering a pitch home.

Last season, Blackley was second in the AL with seven pickoffs despite having only a partial season in the league after Oakland claimed him off waivers from the San Francisco Giants in mid-May.

Up next: Derek Holland (9-6, 2.95 ERA) looks to extend his sterling August in the second game of this three-game series Tuesday at 9:10 p.m. CT against Seattle All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.98) on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM.