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Preview: Rangers (71-64) at Mariners (66-71)

Game: 1
Venue: Safeco Field
Date: September 07, 2015 6:40 PM EDT

After failing to pad their lead for the AL’s second wild-card spot, the Texas Rangers appear to have a prime opportunity to improve their position with a four-game series against the fourth-place Seattle Mariners.

The Rangers, however, haven’t enjoyed much success against the Mariners this season and Seattle comes in riding a season-high five-game winning streak.

Making matters worse for visiting Texas is that Nelson Cruz, who has tormented his former team this season, is hopeful to return from a quad injury for Monday’s opener.

The Rangers (71-64) entered the weekend with a 1 1/2-game lead over Minnesota on the heels of a 15-5 stretch but dropped two of three to the Los Angeles Angels, though their advantage over the Twins didn’t change.

Texas finished with four runs in the series and managed two hits in Sunday’s 7-0 loss that allowed the Angels to pull within 2 1/2 games of a playoff spot.

“Nobody’s gonna let us just walk into the playoffs,” catcher Chris Gimenez told MLB’s official website. “It’s up to us to come back and go up to Seattle and get back to our winning ways.”

The problem with that is the Rangers are 4-8 against Seattle (66-71) this season. They took two of three from the Mariners at home in mid-August but earlier in the month lost two of three in Seattle, where they’re 2-4 this season.

Adrian Beltre is batting .196 against the Mariners this year and Elvis Andrus .217 in the six August meetings.

Cruz has had no such trouble with Texas, batting .417 with five homers and 10 RBIs. Second in the majors with 39 home runs, Cruz has sat out the last three but could return to face Yovani Gallardo (14-9, 3.27 ERA), whom he’s gone 6 for 8 against with two homers.

After tossing 11 1-3 scoreless innings in consecutive outings, Gallardo gave up four runs over five innings in Tuesday’s 8-6 win at San Diego. The right-hander has been hit-or-miss in his last eight road starts, throwing 31 shutout innings in five of them but posting a 9.69 ERA in the other three.

Gallardo hasn’t faced the Mariners since going 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in a pair of April starts against them.

Seattle returns home after Sunday’s 3-2 win in Oakland to cap a 7-3 trip. Kyle Seager and Ketel Marte each drove in a run for the Mariners, who averaged 8.5 runs and hit .336 in the first four games of their winning streak.

“Baseball is always a lot more fun when you win,” said Shawn O’Malley, who is 6 for 8 with four walks in three games since being called up. “And it’s a lot of fun, too, when you’re in the lineup and win. Hopefully, we just continue to win games and finish strong.”

Seager has also been a key contributor to Seattle’s surge, batting .500 with four homers, four doubles and 12 RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak. He is 0 for 5 against Gallardo, however, while Robinson Cano is 0 for 6.

The Mariners counter with Roenis Elias (4-7, 4.35), who is 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. The left-hander walked four in 5 1-3 innings at Houston on Tuesday after issuing two walks over 23 1-3 in his previous four starts for Seattle.

This will be his first game against the Rangers since going 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts against them last year.

Andrus is 5 for 11 against Elias and batting .359 in his last 17 games against lefties.