Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton walks away from the mound after being removed during the fourth inning of a game against Rangers on Sept. 21, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton walks away from the mound after being removed during the fourth inning of a game against Rangers on Sept. 21, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

M’s lose to Rangers 4-2, late-season skid hits 6 games

Seattle falls five games back in the AL wild-card race with just nine games remaining.

SEATTLE — And now Cleveland comes to town.

The Seattle Mariners’ brutal late-season fade reached six games Thursday night in a 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. And suddenly, the Mariners seem like a club whose season can’t end soon enough.

Texas scored two crucial runs in the first inning when third baseman Kyle Seager couldn’t handle a hot two-out grounder with the bases loaded. That provided Rangers ace Cole Hamels with an early cushion.

“It kicked a little bit on me,” Seager said. “It’s certainly a play I would have liked to have made. It was a ball hit right at me, and it’s a play I probably should have made.”

Hamels (11-4) took full advantage in handcuffing the Mariners on one run (a Nelson Cruz homer) over eight innings before Everett Community College alum Keone Kela closed out Texas’ three-game sweep.

Robinson Cano’s one-out homer in the ninth inning against Kela was No. 300 of his career. It provided the crowd of 14,849 with a little something positive in an other dreary evening.

“It means a lot,” Cano said, “and it’s good to get 300, but the bottom line is we lost the game. It’s not really fun.”

The Rangers have now won four in a row and, in the process, resuscitated their own postseason hopes that seemed dead only a week ago when they lost three of four against the Mariners in Texas.

As for the Mariners, they haven’t won since and, at 74-79 with nine games remaining, now trail Minnesota by five games in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.

Their tragic number is down to five.

Any combination of five Mariners losses or Minnesota victories will extend the Mariners’ postseason drought to an MLB-worst 16 seasons.

“We’re not mathematically eliminated yet,” manager Scott Servais said.” I know it doesn’t look great right now. The biggest thing is we’ve got to play a good ballgame.

“We’ve got to go out and win a ballgame. It hasn’t happened in the last week.”

Their slide also presents an embarrassing possibility. The Mariners are now just 4 1/2 games ahead of Oakland in what suddenly looms as a battle to avoid finishing last in the AL West.

The Mariners play three games next week at Oakland — after closing out their home schedule this weekend with three games against the Indians, who have won 27 of their last 28 games.

It’s Fan Appreciation Weekend, by the way.

On Thursday, lefty James Paxton, in his second start since returning from a 31-game stay on the disabled list, put himself in a quick jam by surrendering three one-out singles in the first inning.

While that loaded the bases, Paxton had a chance to escape unharmed by striking out Joey Gallo before Carlos Gomez hit a hard grounder to third. Instead of the third out, the ball skipped through Seager for what was scored a two-run double.

Paxton (12-5) lasted 3 2/3 innings — just as Felix Hernandez did in Wednesday night’s loss to the Rangers. Paxton threw 73 pitches, up from 50 on Sept. 15 in his first start since Aug. 10.

It stayed 2-0 until Adrian Beltre opened the sixth inning with a line-drive homer to left field against reliever Dan Altavilla. Shin-Soo Choo added a two-out homer in the seventh against Emilio Pagan for a 4-0 lead.

Cruz’s homer, his 35th, came with one out in the seventh inning.

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