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For the second straight game, Mariner bats fell silent Wednesday at Safeco Field. Not so, however, manager Lloyd McClendon.

With another series there for the taking, the M’s did virtually nothing at the plate on a sunny matinee against Tampa Bay, losing 2-0 to the Rays. With just seven hits in the past 17 innings, they dropped their first series since fluffing one to Houston here April 21-23.

It was thus with a whimper — two hits — that the M’s hit the approximate quarter-pole for 2014 with a 20-20 record.

“You get one or two hits and get shut out, nothing looks good,” McClendon said. “We looked pretty darned good the other night when we scored nine runs. You try not to overanalyze and continue to look at the big picture.

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“Do we have shortcomings offensively? Of course we do. Do we have challenges? Yes, we do. Can we win? Yes, we can.”

It was a relatively placid McClendon in the postgame news conference, but he wasn’t so beatific a little earlier, when the M’s were on the verge of mounting one of their only threats against the Rays, who had only three hits themselves.

So meager was the offense that when Dustin Ackley lined a one-out double to right-center in the eighth, it provided Seattle’s first runner in scoring position. Then catcher John Buck worked Rays reliever Joel Peralta to a 3-2 count and appeared to check his swing on the next pitch.

But first-base umpire Lance Barksdale rang up Buck, bringing McClendon out of the dugout toward Barksdale. This wasn’t full-on Molten Mac — nothing like the base-uprooting ejection of his Pittsburgh tenure — but he got in Barksdale’s face and flung his cap about 30 feet toward second base.

Barksdale ejected McClendon, and after the cap was retrieved for him, he chucked it again above the Mariners’ first-base dugout, where it was caught by a fan.

“Obviously, we didn’t think (Buck) swung,” McClendon said. “But the umpire tells me, ‘Don’t come out,’ that part I don’t get.

“It is what it is. You guys write what you see. If I tell it, I get fined.”

That rally expired when pinch-hitter Michael Saunders grounded out, and the M’s went meekly in the ninth. It was that kind of day, as they struggled against Rays starter Jake Odorizzi, who had failed to get out of the fifth inning in all but his opening start of 2014.

Odorizzi looked sneaky-fast, throwing fastballs in the 94-mile range — not overpowering, but enough to strike out seven and keep the M’s hitless until James Jones’ two-out single in the sixth.

Asked what Odorizzi was throwing, M’s catcher John Buck said wryly, “An ‘Invisiball’ — that’s all I’ve got for you. Kerwin (Danley, the plate ump) was very consistent calling that high strike — you see it more and more nowadays — and we just couldn’t get on top of it. It seemed like he was pitching to that spot.”

Thus, the M’s only run in the last two games of the series came in the first inning Tuesday night, and that was set up on a late-swing, off-field double by Jones. This, after Seattle had scored a combined 19 runs Sunday and Monday.

The day’s other overarching theme was the woes of M’s right-hander Brandon Maurer, who cruised through three innings allowing just a hit and a walk. In the fourth inning, with two out and one on, Maurer suddenly lost it, loading the bases with walks to Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings.

He got Yunel Escobar into an 0-2 hole but couldn’t punch him out. Escobar, in an excellent nine-pitch at-bat, worked a fourth ball by Maurer on a low, outside pitch, and Maurer was abruptly done after 84 pitches, walking off and hurling his glove into the back of the dugout after he entered it.

“They (the Rays) battled pretty well,” Maurer said. “I just wasn’t able to finish ’em today.”

Buck said he liked the way Maurer pitched inside, but added, “Once a couple of things went bad, he tried to force it a little bit.”

The Rays added a run on reliever Dominic Leone’s wild pitch, and for drama that was about it, until McClendon’s appearance in the eighth.

Said McClendon, “Just a bad day all around.”

Thrown for a loss
Seattle lost a series for the first time since dropping 2 of 3 to Houston April 21-23, going 4-0-1 since:
Opponent Series result
vs. Rangers W, 2-1
@ Yankees W, 2-0*
@ Astros W, 2-1
@ Athletics W, 3-0
vs. Royals T, 2-2
vs. Rays L, 2-1
*One game was rained out

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281


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