Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon knew the line of questioning he was going to face.

For all the good the Mariners did in winning six of nine games on their most recent road trip, they looked flat in a 2-0 defeat against struggling Texas in front of a crowd of 21,620 at Safeco Field on Monday. The setback shrunk the Mariners’ lead in the race for the second wild-card spot in the American League to a half-game over the Tigers.

And that meant questions about whether McClendon’s team was, in fact, flat against the Rangers.

“I thought you guys would ask this,” McClendon said. “But the fact is when you’re out there and you’re not hitting and you’re not running the bases, there’s no excitement going on. You look flat. That’s just the way it is.”

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That happens during a season. The added wrinkle on this night is it came against Miles Mikolas. If you’re asking yourself who Miles Mikolas is, you’re not alone.

Here’s your prime: He’s a 26-year-old starting pitcher for the Rangers. He’s in his first season as a starter in the majors. And he began the night with a 7.48 ERA and a 1-5 record this year.

But Mikolas looked nothing like what his numbers or inexperience hinted at. Whether the Mariners were reverting back to form or coming down from sweeping the Red Sox, they managed only four hits.

The final box score told all you needed to know: four hits, no extra-base hits, one walk.

“Any time you don’t get hits,” first baseman Logan Morrison said, “you’re going to be flat.”

Sure, the Mariners hung around, always staying within a couple well-placed hits of creeping right back into the game. But those hits never came. The Mariners had just four of them and two of those hits were wiped out by double plays.

Mikolas gave up only three hits in his eight scoreless innings.

Roenis Elias, the Mariners’ starter, gave up just one run in five innings. But he battled issues with his command all night.

“He was his own worst enemy tonight,” McClendon said. “I’m not sure what’s going on. I can’t quite put my finger on it. We’ve got to get him straightened out. He’s got to go deeper into ballgames.”

Elias has shown bright flashes of potential this season. But it seems plausible that Elias, in his first season in the big leagues, has started to hit the wall.

In his past eight starts, he hasn’t lasted six innings.

McClendon and Elias, for their part, didn’t think fatigue had taken its toll.

“His stuff is very quality,” McClendon said. “You can see: They don’t score off of him. He just gets his pitch count up, and he gets himself into trouble. They didn’t really square a lot of balls up tonight.”

Elias worked himself into a corner in the fourth inning. He walked two batters and allowed two singles, including one to J.P. Arencibia that gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Elias’ second walk of the inning loaded the bases with two outs, but he escaped further damage thanks to another brilliant defensive play from Robinson Cano.

Cano covered about 25 feet to his left to reach a ground ball from Tomas Telis, then spun and threw the ball to Morrison for the third out of the inning.

The M’s offense provided no room for error, and the pitching staff couldn’t hold that one-run deficit.

Brandon Maurer found trouble in the seventh inning. Cano barehanded a slow chopper and fired it to first, but his throw sailed into the dugout and allowed the runner to take second. Maurer gave up a bunt single, and the Rangers took a 2-0 lead on a ground out from Rougned Odor.

AL wild card
Top two teams will play each other in a one-game playoff.
Team Record Gms back
Angels/A’s 77-53
Mariners 71-59
Tigers 70-59 .5
Yankees 68-61 2.5
Indians 66-63 4.5
Blue Jays 66-65 5.5

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