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Nelson Cruz reaches 40 homers for second straight season

SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz doesn't concern himself with the number of home runs he hits. Instead, he counts what they do to help his team win games.

Nelson Cruz reached 40 home runs for the second straight season, Felix Hernandez pitched three-hit ball for eight innings, and the Seattle Mariners downed the Texas Rangers 5-0 on Thursday.

"Numbers are numbers. I like to just focus on games," said Cruz, who signed a four-year free-agent contract during the offseason. "What I like to do is help my team win games. They [homers] are going to come. At end of the season, you have time to realize what you did."

The Rangers were shut out for the second straight day. Their lead for the second AL wild-card spot was cut to one game over idle Minnesota. Texas missed a chance to gain on AL West-leading Houston and fell 2 1/2 games behind the idle Astros.

Cruz had missed the previous six games because of a strained right quadriceps. He matched his career high for homers, set last season with Baltimore, when he connected for a two-run shot in the Mariners' three-run seventh.

Hernandez (17-8) struck out eight and walked four. He tied Houston's Dallas Keuchel for most victories in the AL.

"I had good mechanics today," said Hernandez, who was given an extra day of rest between starts. "My fastball was good. My sinker was down. My changeup was down. Before, it was not moving at all. Now it's down."

Mitch Moreland, who had two hits for Texas, said Hernandez "was on his game. When he is like that, it is going to be tough."

"He had everything working for him," he said. "He was getting ahead, keeping the balls down, throwing every pitch for strikes. His off-speed was on. One of those days, it's tough to stand in the box and battle with him when he is on like that."

Derek Holland (3-2) worked seven innings and allowed all five runs and nine hits.

"I felt like I did a good job all the way until the last inning," Holland said. "I attacked the zone. The home run pitch to Cruz just came in across the plate. I thought I did a pretty good job of battling with Felix, but he had us under control."

The Rangers were blanked in back-to-back games for the first time since July 2013 at Cleveland. They have been shut out four times on their 10-game road trip.

Cruz became the fourth Mariner to hit at least 40 home runs in a season. Ken Griffey Jr. did it six times, and Alex Rodriguez and Jay Buhner each had three such seasons. Rodriguez was the most recent to reach the milestone, with 41 homers in 2000.

It was Cruz's 14th home run this year at Safeco Field, the most in a season at the ballpark since Jose Lopez in 2008.

Mark Trumbo's two-run homer in the first extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. He is batting .375 with five home runs and 11 RBI during the streak.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: Slugger Josh Hamilton will have arthroscopic surgery on his ailing left knee Friday. The team is hopeful he can return before the end of the season.

Mariners: LHP James Paxton, on the DL since May 29 with a strained left middle finger, threw a bullpen session Thursday morning. If he feels OK Friday, he will start Sunday for his first start since May 28. ... OF Franklin Gutierrez (strained right groin) missed his sixth straight game.

UP NEXT

Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis (14-8, 4.68 ERA) will make his fourth attempt at a career-best 15th victory at home against Oakland. He has struggled his past three starts and gone 0-3 with a 8.62 ERA. He is 9-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 25 career starts against the A's, his most wins against any opponent.

Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (7-3, 4.03 ERA) is 5-1 with a 2.98 ERA over his past seven starts, including a no-hitter Aug. 12 against Baltimore. He has never faced Colorado.

SETTING UP FOR HOUSTON

The Rangers are adjusting their rotation by pushing LHP Cole Hamels back one day to open the four-game home series with Houston that begins Monday. "That's the way we wanted it," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "That's why we got him [in a July 31 trade with Philadelphia]." Minor league prospect Chi Chi Gonzalez will take Hamels' scheduled start Sunday against Oakland.

BARON DEBUT

Steven Baron made his big league catching debut for the Mariners on Wednesday. He became the first Seattle catcher to call a shutout in his debut.