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Smoak helps Mariners hold off Rangers 8-6

Associated Press Modified: September 16, 2012 at 12:33 am •  Published: September 16, 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Seattle Mariners are just fine playing the role of spoiler.

Former Rangers infielder Justin Smoak homered in the eighth inning and drove in a run in the ninth as the Mariners handed American League West-leading Texas its second loss in three games with an 8-6 win Saturday night.

With the loss and an Oakland A's win, the Rangers' lead is down to two games ahead of the surging A's. Seattle will have plenty of chances to play a part in the final standings, as seven of their final 16 games are against the Rangers and A's.

"It's a little different for (the Rangers) than last year," Seattle starting pitcher Justin Vargas said. "There weren't any teams chasing them last year, but now they're under the gun a little bit."

Smoak had three hits, two runs and three RBIs, helping Seattle build a 6-0 lead in the first three innings while sending Texas starter Scott Feldman to the bench after just 2 2-3 innings. Feldman, who had lost his last five starts going into the game, threw 71 pitches.

Lucas Luetge (2-1) got two outs for the Seattle victory while Tom Wilhelmsen got the final four outs for his 27th save in 30 chances.

Dustin Ackley homered to lead off the third and Michael Saunders had a two-run triple. Saunders also had a RBI single in the first. Smoak scored Saunders with a single and Eric Thames plated Smoak to make it 6-0. Smoak's home run was his career-high tying 15th, and Saunders went 2-for-4 with a triple, walk and three RBI.

"The offense did a great job early on, moving on down the line and keeping it going," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I feel like we've been swinging the bats well, but not doing a good job with runners in scoring position. So keeping it going in that one big inning was big. That and tacking on (a run in the ninth)."

Martin Perez kept the Rangers in the game in relief of Feldman. He retired 13 of the 15 batters he faced, only allowing a walk and hitting a batter. He struck out five and became the first Texas reliever with 4.1-plus innings pitched to allow no hits and no runs since Mark Brandenburg did the same in 4.2 innings against Seattle on July 6, 1996.

"I thought he was great," Washington said. "The kid came in and kept the ball down in the zone and had a good change up and was aggressive. He threw the ball extremely well."

Texas got on the board in the third after Vargas walked the bases loaded. Nelson Cruz's sacrifice fly scored a run for the Rangers to make it 6-1, but Vargas struck out Michael Young to end the inning.

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