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Mariners-Rangers Preview

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers play Game 2 of a four-game series on Tuesday with "Gonzales" and "Gonzalez" on the mound.

The Mariners' Marco Gonzales and the Rangers' Miguel Gonzalez go to work for two teams scratching and clawing to remain in American League wild-card contention. Texas (72-71) is two games behind the Minnesota Twins (74-69) for the second wild-card spot. Seattle (71-73) is 3 1/2 games back.

Gonzales (0-1, 7.07 ERA overall between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Mariners) will make his seventh start of the season after tossing four innings of shutout relief in a 7-6 victory over the Oakland A's on Sept. 2. He hasn't pitched since.

"He threw four very effective innings ... allowed us to come back and win," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "Hopefully, he can build upon that. I'm not looking for him to go seven innings. Keep us in the ballgame."

Gonzales is making the spot start as the Mariners rearrange the rotation to fit Felix Hernandez and James Paxton back in after their recovery from injuries. The start will be the first of the left-hander's career against Texas.

Gonzales is, however, the owner of a 9.00 ERA in three road starts this season.

"I think he made a couple of mechanical adjustments last time he was out there," said Servais, whose plan for Tuesday was likely hampered by having to use right-hander Andrew Moore in long relief on Monday. Moore tossed six innings of one-run ball.

Gonzalez (7-10, 4.48 ERA overall between the Chicago White Sox and the Rangers) will make his second start for Texas since being acquired on Aug. 31. He will be working on an extended five days' rest after a no-decision in a 12-8 Texas victory at Atlanta on Wednesday. In that game, Gonzalez gave up four runs on four hits and two walks while striking out two over three innings. He also yielded two home runs.

What made him attractive enough for Texas to give up minor league third baseman Ti'Quan Forbes in a trade was what he has done since the All-Star break.

Gonzalez has a 3-2 record and a 3.57 ERA in 10 starts in the second half of the season.

Against Seattle, he is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four career starts.

Losses sting this time of year for teams trying to hold on to long, long shot playoff hopes. Making up ground is further complicated by the fact that the Mariners and the Rangers are competing with five other teams for the second wild card.

The stars would have to align for either team to sneak into the postseason. Seattle has 18 games remaining, Texas 19. Both have another series against each other, and one with the Los Angeles Angels.

Among Texas manager Jeff Banister's chief concerns is a season-long issue: protecting leads.

The bullpen has converted two of five save chances in September, including left-hander Alex Claudio's save Monday in the Rangers' 5-2 victory over the Mariners.

Right-hander Matt Bush and left-hander Jake Diekman, both recent additions from the disabled list, each worked an inning of scoreless relief. Diekman walked Robinson Cano to start the inning but struck out Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. He got around a two-out walk to Danny Valencia.

"That's about as high-leverage as it gets really in this league," Banister said of Diekman. "Anytime you have to move through the middle of the lineup in major league baseball, it's about as high as it gets. A two-run lead, a slim margin for him, and two baserunners. Listen, it was a situation where he had to make some pitches, and he did."

Claudio picked up his eighth save with a perfect ninth.