One streak ended, but the more important one continued.
The Mariners broke out of their 0-for-16 slump with runners in scoring position in the first inning of Monday night’s game against the Texas Rangers with an RBI double from Nelson Cruz that scored Kyle Seager from second. It gave momentary hope of a night filled with runs and hits.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, that accounted for all of their offense until the game was out of reach in a 7-3 loss at a sparsely populated Safeco Field on a see-your-breath chilly spring night. Seattle (2-5) dropped its fourth straight game — all at home.
“We struggled to put consistent quality at-bats together,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It just isn’t happening right now. What are you going to do? You just keep battling and fighting through it and eventually we’ll come out of it.”
The questions of when and how are lingering without any easy answers.
“We need to get it done,” Cruz said. “We need to get runners on base and the middle of the lineup drives them in. It’s nothing complicated. It’s a long season and you have to see it that way and not let it get into your head.”
Servais has been steady in his belief that this isn’t a permanent trend. It’s a topic that has dominated every pregame and postgame media session.
“We need a little a good fortune to turn our way, but we’ve got to keep battling,” he said. “We’ve got to make it happen.”
The Mariners’ 1-0 lead lasted about 15 minutes. The Rangers answered in the top of the second against Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Ian Desmond singled with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Elvis Andrus blooped a single about 100 feet from home, landing in the right-field grass to score Desmond and tie the score.
The Mariners would never lead again. Texas added a run in the third on a sacrifice fly from Prince Fielder and another in the fourth inning on an RBI double from Rougned Odor.
Iwakuma gave the Mariners a workable start, even with a pitch-count-sapping second inning. The veteran right-hander worked six innings, giving up three runs on eight hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
“I battled throughout the whole game,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “Some of the balls that were hits were up in the zone. The one thing I regret is that after we scored early and I gave up that run early.”
A 3-1 lead isn’t insurmountable. But the previous three days of struggles at Safeco didn’t offer much plausible hope of a rally. That became out of the question after the seventh and eighth innings. Texas picked up a run against reliever Mike Montgomery on an RBI single from Fielder in the seventh.
Down 4-1, Seattle had one last gasp at a rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Mariners loaded the bases with two outs, but Norichika Aoki’s hard ground ball was gloved by first baseman Mitch Moreland on a nice play to end the inning.
It fell apart in the eighth. Montgomery allowed three straight one-out singles to load the bases. He should have been out of the inning, but Odor’s hard ground ball — a potential inning-ending double play — bounced off Robinson Cano’s glove and into right field, allowing two runs to score. It was ruled a single, but could have easily been ruled an error. It’s a play that Cano should have made and has made often.
“Robby makes everything look so easy and everyone is shocked when he doesn’t make a play like that,” Servais said. “It was not an easy play, but I’m sure he’d be the first to admit it’s a play he probably should have had.”
Cano said the ball “came up on him,” but added, “I still need to catch it.”
Texas tacked on another run on a sacrifice fly for the third run of the inning.
Down 7-1 after the top of the eighth, most of the 13,468 in attendance headed for the exits.
Those three runs after the failed inning-ending double play ball loomed large in retrospect when the Mariners picked up their two other runs in the eighth inning off the bat of Cruz. The big right-hander crushed a line drive, two-run homer over the wall in center field off Keone Kela.