If this truly is a make-or-break trip for the Rangers, they started in the best possible manner Friday night.

They took on Seattle ace “King Felix” Hernandez at his best and won. Hernandez blinked in the ninth inning, setting up the Rangers’ 1-0 victory at Safeco Field.

The Rangers scored in the ninth on the combination of two steals by Elvis Andrus and the Mariners’ inability to get a double play on a slowly hit grounder by Adrian Beltre.

The Rangers won because their pitchers, starting with Nick Tepesch at his best, took on “King Felix” and never cracked.

“These are the best ones,” Andrus said. “When you’re facing the best and beat the best, after the game it’s a sweet feeling.”

This started a nine-game trip against clubs that lead the Rangers in the American League West: the Mariners, Athletics and Angels. The Rangers are seven games behind division-leading Oakland.
General manager Jon Daniels said the results of the trip will not determine how the club approaches the duration of the season.

“We’re not going to make any kind of wide, sweeping evaluations,” Daniels said. “We know what’s going on. We know where we are. But I’m probably not going to come back after the trip and have any announcements.”

The players recognize that a bad trip probably would doom their season.

Since a wild-card team joined the playoff mix in 1995, a total of 217 teams dropped to 10 games out in the division during the first three months of the season. Of those clubs, 31 went on to have a winning record. Eleven, or one in 20, reached the playoffs.