After surging to the top of the AL West, Shin-Soo Choo and the Texas Rangers are trying to create some breathing room. That's going to be mighty difficult against Felix Hernandez.
Choo looks to continue sparking the Rangers as they try to avoid another loss to Hernandez in the finale of this three-game set with the Settle Mariners on Sunday.
Texas (80-68) has gone 29-15 to turn an eight-game deficit in the division race into a 2 1/2-game lead on Houston.
The Rangers' turnaround includes an AL-best 12-6 record this month after beating Seattle 10-1 on Saturday.
Choo is enjoying his own revival, leading the majors with a .455 average and .571 on-base percentage this month. The right fielder entered September batting .245 with a .338 OBP.
He's hitting .513 with 11 runs in the past 10 games after reaching base five times Saturday, going 2 for 3 with two walks and one hit by pitch.
"Just a complete hitter," manager Jeff Banister told MLB's official website. "He's not chasing, barrel on the baseball that's in the strike zone, seeing the ball exceptionally well, staying back - all the things that we talk about as being a complete hitter. He is that right now."
Choo, though, is 2 for 11 against Hernandez (17-9, 3.55 ERA) this season. The Mariners ace has a 1.57 ERA while winning all four of his starts against Texas this year. The right-hander allowed three hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings of a 5-0 win over the Rangers on Sept. 10.
Hernandez, who is trying to become the AL's first 18-game winner, gave up four runs and two homers in seven innings of a 4-3 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
The Rangers will again counter with Derek Holland (3-2, 3.77), who gave up five runs in seven innings opposite Hernandez earlier this month. He was 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his seven previous starts against the Mariners (72-77).
The left-hander wasn't any better Tuesday, surrendering five runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings against Houston in his seventh start after missing over four months with a right shoulder injury.
"Derek didn't pitch but six games last year," Banister said of Holland, who missed nearly six months recovering from knee surgery in 2014. "He really hasn't pitched in a high-stress, high-intensity game in quite a while. When a guy is coming back after being gone for an extended period of time, they go through a relearning of what they experienced previously."
Adrian Beltre is on a tear at home, hitting .438 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in his last 27 games. He's put together a 16-game hitting streak there with a .459 average and 18 RBIs.
He went 3 for 4 with a double and three RBIs on Saturday despite playing with a wrap on his left index finger.
"I think we need to keep doing stuff to his hand," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "He keeps getting better and better."
Beltre, though, is 1 for 14 over the past two years against Hernandez while Prince Fielder is 2 for 22 lifetime.