But as much as the manager might have wanted to will his team to a victory, it wasn’t going to be easy, not with lefty Cole Hamels, who got a couple of runs to work with in the first inning in the Rangers’ 4-2 victory.

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Mariners manager Scott Servais has been around baseball too long to get too low or too high during a 162-game season.

And because of that, he is usually loath to make a big deal about any one game, win or lose. But after losing five in a row and with his team on the verge of being swept by the Texas Rangers and losing all hope in the wild-card race, Servais made a pronouncement hours before the game Thursday at Safeco Field.

“This is a big game,” he said. “I said it, this is a big game.”

But as much as the manager might have wanted to will his team to a victory, it wasn’t going to be easy, not with lefty Cole Hamels on the mound. He pitched eight outstanding innings and Texas finished off the sweep with a 4-2 victory despite the 300th career homer by Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano.

The Mariners fell to 74-79 and are five games behind Minnesota in the race for the American League’s second wild-card spot.

“There are not many silver linings in this one tonight,” Servais said afterward. “It was a tough night, and it has been a tough six games.”

Hamels (11-4) allowed three hits, including Nelson Cruz’s 35th homer, and one run. He walked two and struck out seven.

“Cole Hamels was very good,” Servais said. “That was the best changeup I’ve seen him have in a long time, and he kept going to it and we didn’t recognize it.”

The Mariners’ James Paxton, making his second start since coming off the disabled list, loaded the bases just eight pitches into the game.

But with one out, he struck out Joey Gallo and it looked like he would get out of the inning when Carlos Gomez hit a hard ground ball directly to third baseman Kyle Seager.

Seager went to his knees, but the ball bounced off his glove into left field. Two runs scored on what was very generously ruled a double and you could sense that nearly every one of the 14,849 spectators at Safeco Field was thinking, “Here we go again.”

“I am sure Kyle would be the first one to tell you that is a play he should make,” Servais said.

The Mariners could at least feel good about the progress made by Paxton, who fell to 12-5. After lasting only 11/3 innings in his first start off the DL (allowing three runs and six base runners), he made it through 32/3 innings and 73 pitches Thursday.

Paxton, who was on about a 75-pitch limit after being on a 50-pitch limit in his previous start, allowed two runs on four hits and two walks.

“It was a step in the right direction,” Paxton said. “When I needed to get something extra with my velocity, I was able to get it.”

Not that Texas needed many more runs after the first inning, the way Hamels was pitching, but former Mariner Adrian Beltre hit a long home run to lead off the sixth inning, and another former Mariner, Shin-Soo Choo, hit a homer to right center in the seventh to make it 4-0.

The most significant homer was Cano’s, which came in the ninth inning off Keone Kela, who played at Chief Sealth High School.

Cano became the eighth player to hit his 300th career homer while playing for the Mariners. Cruz became part of the group earlier in the season.

“It’s a phenomenal accomplishment,” Servais said of Cano’s milestone. “He’s a great, great talent.”

But other than the homers from Cano and Cruz, there was little to be cheery about for the Mariners.

Up next for Seattle is the hottest team in baseball, the Cleveland Indians, for three games.

And after a sixth consecutive defeat, the Mariners are almost beyond playing in any more big games.

“We’re not mathematically eliminated, but it’s not looking real good right now,” Servais said. “We just need to play a good game.”

AL wild-card race

Team
W-L
GB

Yankees
84-67
+6

Twins
78-73

Angels
76-74

Rangers
74-76

Mariners
74-77
4

Royals
73-77

Rays
73-78
5

Orioles
73-79