SEATTLE -- The heavy lifting isn't completely done in the American League West, but the Texas Rangers tightened their grip Sunday and started their final push toward the title.
Their nearest rival was well on the way to a victory behind its staff ace. The Rangers were facing the reigning AL Cy Young winner at Safeco Field.
Los Angeles, it appeared, had an opening to edge closer.
But now the Angels' window is nearly shut.
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Matt Harrison struck out nine in 6 2/3 scoreless innings, and Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer off Felix Hernandez as the Rangers beat Seattle 3-0.
Their lead in the West held at 4 1/2 games, but their magic number dipped to six entering an off day today. The Angels open a four-game series tonight at Toronto.
The Rangers have nine games remaining, and the Angels have 10. If the Rangers go only 4-5 the rest of the way, the Angels would have to go 10-0 for an outright division win.
The teams play their final three games against each other Sept. 26-28 at Angel Stadium.
"We're comfortable we can do our job, but it's not done yet," Beltre said. "I think our goal now is to not give them a chance when we get to LA for that three-game series. Hopefully, we'll be where we are right now so we don't give them a chance to do anything crazy."
Beltre's homer was his 27th of the year and first off Hernandez, his former Seattle teammate. Beltre, who entered the at-bat 1 for 8 with five strikeouts against Hernandez, jawed toward the right-hander as he approached home plate.
Beltre ran to the dugout with a big grin on his face after launching an 0-2 fastball in the Mariners' bullpen beyond the fence in left-center field.
"Yeah, stupid pitch," Beltre said, still grinning. "I played with him, I played behind him, and he's nasty. He doesn't leave many pitches over the heart of the plate. The ball moves everywhere, and it's hard to square him up."
The Rangers scored another run in the sixth on Elvis Andrus' double that scored Ian Kinsler. Hernandez kept Seattle within striking distance by pitching out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh.
But he lost to the Rangers for the third time this season.
"Getting good pitching on your end, that's the key," first baseman Michael Young said. "Odds are you're not going to score a bunch of runs off Felix."
Harrison (13-9) was simply better. The left-hander allowed six hits and was especially tough against left-handed hitters. They entered the game with a .302 average against him, but four Mariners lefty-hitters went 1 for 13 with seven strikeouts as Harrison used his curveball to fluster them.
"I probably threw more curveballs today than I have in a month," said Harrison, who threw 115 pitches. "It just felt good in the bullpen, it felt good early. So, I just went with it, especially against lefties."
Seattle caught up to him in the seventh as an infield hit by Ichiro Suzuki loaded the bases with two outs. Koji Uehara entered to face Luis Rodriguez, who had been 2 for 2 with a walk, but struck him out to end the threat.
Josh Hamilton preserved the Rangers' 19th shutout of the season in the eighth, when he jumped at the left-field wall to take a solo homer away from Mike Carp.
Neftali Feliz was perfect again in the ninth as the Rangers took another step toward a second straight West title.
"We're playing our kind of baseball," Young said. "We haven't blinked. We see there's baseball to be played, and we're going to play our game. So far, so good."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760