SEATTLE — Runners in scoring position have become more of a suggestion than a threat for the Mariners early in the season.
Another potent outing from left-hander Joe Saunders at Safeco Field was wasted by quiet Seattle bats in a 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Saturday night.
Saunders is 7-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 11 career starts at Safeco. He threw seven innings and allowed one unearned run against the Rangers.
Yet, his mates at the plate couldn’t supply a win and the bullpen couldn’t supply relief.
The Mariners (5-8) left eight runners on base.
Kelly Shoppach led off the fifth inning with a double and Dustin Ackley, who has reverted to his old batting stance, singled to right field to put runners at the corners with none out.
Brendan Ryan struck out. Endy Chavez popped out to shallow left. Jason Bay flipped a fly ball to center that found the grass just before it found the glove of a diving Craig Gentry. That pushed in Seattle’s only run of the night.
Texas tied the game on a bizarre double play.
With the bases loaded, Nelson Cruz hit a soft liner to Justin Smoak, who dropped it when baserunner Adrian Beltre blocked his vision. Smoak scooped the ball up and chose to throw to second instead of home. That produced a forceout.
Shortstop Ryan pivoted and threw to Kyle Seager at third, who eventually tagged out Ian Kinsler in a rundown. But Leury Garcia, who had led off the inning with his first career hit, scored during the process to tie the game.
“It happened so quick,” Smoak said. “The ball should have been caught, first of all. It happened so quick, I just threw it to second. I thought (that was) our only chance was to get something out of it.
“Had a lot of things I could have done there. Thrown it home, tag Beltre and tag first All that stuff is running through your head at one time.”
The bases ended up loaded for Cruz after the sure-handed Ryan had a hard grounder kick up high and into his body off Kinsler’s bat.
What appeared to be an elementary double play ended up leaving two runners on base. Saunders intentionally walked Adrian Beltre to get to Cruz, who ended the inning with the curious double play.
The Mariners had two on with two out in the bottom of the sixth, but Ackley flew out to deep right, part of Seattle’s 2-for-8 night with runners in scoring position.
The game slipped away from the Mariners in the eighth when Carter Capps (0-1) had an odd inning of his own.
The 2-2 fastball he threw to Craig Gentry appeared to be a strike but was called a ball. Capps walked Gentry with the next pitch.
Texas (8-4) moved Gentry to second, and Elvis Andrus’ flare to right landed just inside the right-field line to score Gentry for a 2-1 Texas lead.
Andrus took off for second with Beltre at the plate. Beltre appeared to step out of the box looking for time to be called. Capps’ fastball was well wide with Beltre standing all the way outside of the box; it clicked off Shoppach’s mitt for a wild pitch that moved Andrus to third. Beltre singled to left two pitches later to score Andrus.
“I thought the umpire gave him time,” Capps said. “It was a weird one.”
The Mariners had just one baserunner in the final three innings and went 1-2-3 in the ninth against Texas closer Joe Nathan.todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners