ARLINGTON -- Cole Hamels gave the Rangers what they needed on Monday night, holding the powerful Mariners lineup to three runs in six innings.
But it took three tough innings from the bullpen trio of Matt Bush, Jake Diekman and Alex Claudio to finish it off in a 5-3 victory over the Mariners.
The Rangers are now two games behind the Twins in the race for the second Wild Card playoff spot in the American League. They are six games behind the Yankees, who are going to be tough to catch with 19 games left to play.
• AL Wild Card standings
"Obviously, we're right neck and neck, and every win matters," Hamels said. "It's not going to get any easier. We play some tough teams ... we definitely have to win series, and that's the only way we know how to stay within this fight. It's just a matter of focusing on what we can do and believing in each other, and we're having a good time doing it."
The Rangers took a 4-1 lead after two innings and made it stand up. Hamels did his part and the defense was outstanding, leaving only the bullpen to lock it down. That has been a dubious proposition at times this year but not on Monday night.
"It was outstanding," Bush said. "Cole Hamels pitched a great game, offense provided the runs, defense played great. Fortunately, I got a chance to get in there tonight and just wanted to pitch as best as I could so I could help the team win a game. I did my job, Diekman came in and did his job, and Claudio came in and did his job."
Bush, who had been out with a sprained right knee, was making his first appearance since coming off the disabled list and pitched a scoreless seventh.
"I was a little nervous," Bush said. "Pretty excited. Been a little while since I've been in the game, and these games are do or die right now, every game's so important, and I know that. Just trying to stay calm and under control and do as best I can out there."
Diekman had the toughest assignment in his fifth appearance since coming off the disabled list. He had to face the middle of the Mariners' order in the eighth. He walked Robinson Cano, struck out Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager and walked Danny Valencia. That brought up Mike Zunino, who hit a smash right at third baseman Will Middlebrooks for a forceout at second to end the inning.
"That's about as high [leverage] as it gets in this league with those set of hitters," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Situation where [Diekman] had to make some pitches and he did. Just all-around solid inning for him from a guy who in my opinion is still working his way back, but looks as good and as fresh as he has at any point last year, this year."
Claudio set down the side in the ninth with Middlebrooks coming up big again. He made a terrific diving stop on Carlos Ruiz's one-out grounder to keep the Mariners from mounting a rally.
"A good win for us," Bush said.