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Mariners lack (guess what?) offense in loss to Rangers


SEATTLE -- The name of the game is pitching, but a little run support doesn't hurt, either.

Joe Saunders got very little of the latter Saturday night, the Seattle Mariners squandering a gem of a performance by the 31-year-old left-hander in a 3-1 loss to Texas at Safeco Field.

Saunders yielded three hits and no earned runs in seven strong innings, but the Rangers (8-4) plated a pair of eighth-inning runs off reliever Carter Capps to break a 1-1 tie and claim the victory.

"Saunders did a great job tonight," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "We need to loosen some things up by creating more offense."

Sound familiar? The Mariners (5-8) are in a similar situation to what they've been in for several seasons. They entered Friday play last in the American League in batting (.221) and on-base percentage (.295). The Swiss Army has more firepower.

Much of Seattle's arsenal is missing due to injury. The entire starting outfield -- Michael Morse (tie for the AL lead in home runs with six), Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez -- sat out Saturday's game.

"We're banged up," Wedge said. "We're missing three of our first four hitters.

"But we still need to be doing better. We have to do a better job of being a little more disciplined. When we get the chance, we have to square it up and put it into play."

The Mariners had seven hits -- six singles and a double by catcher Kelly Shoppach.

"I felt bad we couldn't scratch a couple across for Saundo tonight," Shoppach said. "We had opportunities to get some runs and couldn't cash them in.

"That'll come. We'll start getting those key hits. Then we'll be winning these tight games."

Texas broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth with a pair of runs off Capps, who had come in to replace Saunders. Elvis Andrus knocked in the first run on a two-out single, then scored on Adrian Beltre's single.

The Mariners got on the board after Shoppach led off the fifth with a ground-rule double, and Dustin Ackley followed with a single to put runners on first and third with no outs. Brendan Ryan struck out and Endy Chavez flew out to shallow left-field, but Jason Bay singled off the glove of a diving Craig Gentry in center field to score the game's first run.

In the Texas sixth, though, Ryan booted a tailor-made double-play ball at shortstop for his first error of the season, putting runners at first and second with no outs.

"Brendan's one of the best shortstops in the game," Wedge said. "A double-play ball … it changed the whole complexion of the game."

After a sacrifice bunt, Beltre was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Then came the game's biggest play. Cleanup hitter Nelson Cruz hit a liner at first baseman Justin Smoak. Smoak couldn't hang on, but the runners all held, thinking he'd make the catch. Smoak threw to Ryan to force Beltre at second. Ryan then threw to third baseman Kyle Seager, who got Ian Kinsler after a rundown between second and third. But by the time Seager tagged Kinsler, Leury Garcia had crossed home plate with a run to tie the score at 1-1.

"It happened so quick," Smoak said. "The ball should have been caught, first of all. Beltre coming back to the bag (to tag up) kind of blinded me. I threw to second. Thought my only chance was there, to get something out of it.

"I had a lot of things I could have done. Throw it home or tag Beltre. All that stuff is running through your head at one time. Something better could have happened out of it."

"Under normal circumstances, you get out of the inning allowing one run, you're pleased," Wedge said. "That late in the game, it's tough."

Tough, also to have an error by Ryan play such a key role in the outcome.

"The defense was great behind me tonight," Saunders said. "We just had the one bad hop to Ryan that hurt us. Can't do anything about that -- just bad luck."

Saunders was just covering for a teammate. Ryan should have completed the double-play, and the Rangers would have been unlikely to score their first run.

But fielding isn't Seattle's problem. Despite Capps' problems Saturday night, pitching isn't, either.

"We made (Texas starter Alexi) Ogando work tonight," Wedge said, "but you have to capitalize on it."

NOTES -- Seattle and Texas finish the series with a 1:10 p.m. game here Sunday. … The Rangers are a game behind Oakland (9-3) in the AL West. Seattle is in third place, tied with Houston (4-6) four games back. … Announced attendance was 23,461. … A few boos whistled through the stands as Ryan popped up to end the game. … The Mariners entered the game ranked 12th in the league in ERA at 4.91. … In 11 career starts at Safeco, Saunders owns a 7-0 record and a 1.72 ERA. "I feel very comfortable here," he said. "I don't know what it is about it, but it's a very comfortable ballpark for me to throw in."

Center fielder Gutierrez, who has a major league-best three home runs to lead off games this season, missed his first game with a tight hamstring. "He's been feeling it for the last couple of days," Wedge said in pregame. "Can't take a chance on starting him and losing him. Hopefully he'll be able to get back in there (Sunday)." … Wedge went with the veteran Shoppach, who entered the game hitting .500 (6 for 12), at catcher in place of Jesus Montero, who is hitting .176. Shoppach "has been swinging a good bat for us," Wedge said. "Montero's caught a lot, and he's still working on his game. Kelly's done a nice job for us back there." … Smoak entered 2013 with a .223 career batting average and is hitting .182 this season, but he is at .308 during his career against the Rangers, his former team.