MINNEAPOLIS — The give and take of the Mariners’ season continues. The feel-good memories of a 7-2 trip of a couple of weeks ago and being two games over .500 are disappearing fast amid a sea of stranded base runners and missed opportunities.
The Mariners lost their fourth straight game on Saturday night, falling 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
They have dropped seven of their last 11 games. The last time Seattle (20-22) lost four in a row was part of the brutal eight-game losing streak in mid April.
While the success of a couple of weeks ago makes another protracted losing streak seem unlikely, Seattle’s failures to hit with runners in scoring position could be a problem.
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“We’ll figure it out,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It’s a little tough right now. Winning games at this level is tough. One thing here or one thing there will cause you to lose. We’ll figure this offense out and we’ll be OK.”
The Mariners were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position in the loss and have just one hit in their last 26 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“We just need to get that big hit,” McClendon said. “In the last three or four games, it’s that one hit that puts us over the top.”
The players believe they are close to breaking through. The sentiment is they are just a run short or a key hit away from changing everything.
“I feel like everyone is on the verge of contributing how we should be contributing,” said outfielder James Jones. “All we can do is keep grinding and stay confident out there.”
In some cases it doesn’t even need to be a hit to make a difference. Down 4-2 going into the seventh inning, Seattle had a prime opportunity to add a run against the Twins’ bullpen.
Justin Smoak doubled to right-center off Brian Duensing to start the inning. Smoak moved to third on Dustin Ackley’s deep fly ball to center. Mike Zunino drew a one-out walk to put runners on the corners. McClendon called on Stefen Romero to pinch hit for Brad Miller to face the left-handed Duensing. The move was logical considering Miller’s struggles. All that was needed was a deep fly ball to score the run. Instead, Romero bounced a ball back to the mound for a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning.
It was an example of the “one thing here” McClendon lamented. An inning later, Michael Saunders belted his second homer of the season — a solo shot off Jared Burton. Instead of it being a tying homer, it only trimmed the lead to 4-3.
Corey Hart followed Saunders’ homer with a two-out double to right-center. But he was stranded there as Kyle Seager struck out to end the inning.
Starter Roenis Elias (3-3) took the loss, pitching seven innings and giving up four runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
“I thought he threw exceptionally well,” McClendon said. “His stuff was good. He didn’t have many stressful innings tonight.”
Brian Dozier had a part in all four Minnesota runs.
Dozier started the game with a single and later scored on a two-out double by Kurt Suzuki to make it 1-0.
Elias kept the Twins scoreless for the next three innings, while his teammates even managed to give him a lead. Miller drew a one-out walk off Twins’ starter Samuel Deduno to start the third inning. He scored moments later when Jones tripled down the right-field line, notching the first RBI of his major-league career. Saunders gave Seattle a 2-1 lead, skying a fly ball to deep right that allowed Jones to tag up and score easily.
Elias couldn’t hold the lead. In the fifth inning, he gave up back-to-back singles to Aaron Hicks and Eduardo Escobar. Dozier continued to torment the Mariners, driving a low curveball from Elias into the stands in left-center field.