ARLINGTON, Texas — The Mariners got the pitching performance they needed from their best pitcher. However, the Mariners’ offense, which has looked like a juggernaut for extended periods this season, was held to just one run by a 35-year-old journeyman, then a kid from Skyline High School, then a middling reliever and then a former Mariners reliever in a 2-1 defeat Wednesday against the Rangers.
Seattle was swept in a three-game series that saw the Rangers (24-23) move past .500 for the first time since April 28. Meanwhile, the Mariners fall another game below .500 at 23-29. The odds of them getting back above it decrease with each passing game.
“Disappointing series here,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We certainly thought we would swing the bats better than we did in this series.”
The Mariners will have Thursday off and then open a three-game series against the A’s, who won their sixth consecutive game Wednesday.
Former Skyline standout and one-time Mariner Adrian Sampson pitched 5 1/3 innings of solid “relief” to lead the Rangers to the victory. After starter Jesse Chavez recorded two outs in the second inning, Sampson took over as planned. He allowed one run on four hits with five strikeouts to get the victory. Another former Mariner reliever, Shawn Kelley, worked out of a minor jam in the ninth that had the tying and winning run on base with two outs. Kelley struck out Shed Long on a series of breaking balls to close out the game for his fourth save of the season.
The Mariners managed just eight hits and had only two extra-base hits — a pair of doubles. They were 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base.
“It’s frustrating we didn’t do more offensively,” Servais said. “We didn’t get much pressure on them offensively.”
The lack of offense wasted a solid start from Seattle left-hander Marco Gonzales, who tossed seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
“Marco threw the ball really well,” Servais said. “I thought he got in a nice groove there from the third inning on.”
Gonzales was helped by four double plays by his defense.
“That’s the goal when guys are on base — just get a ground ball and let the guys do the work,” he said.
Unfortunately for him, that same defense also allowed a crucial unearned run that ultimately proved to be the difference. It’s become a familiar occurrence for the Mariners.
With two outs in the first inning, Hunter Pence hit a ground ball to the right side that first baseman Edwin Encarnacion gloved well away from the bag. He flipped the ball to Gonzales, who was covering first base. The flip was low and led Gonzales too much. Gonzales couldn’t glove the throw. Pence was not only safe at first, but he hustled to second.
“It was just a little out in front and out of my reach unless I dive for it and miss the bag,” Gonzales said. “I can’t catch that ball.”
That loomed costly when the next batter, Nomar Mazara, doubled over the head of Mitch Haniger in right to score the first run of the game.
“Again, the unearned run, it’s gotten us a few times this year,” Servais said.
Encarnacion’s error — the 55th committed by the Mariners this season — led to the team’s 46th unearned run allowed, which is the most in baseball.
The Rangers tacked on their only other run off Gonzales in the sixth inning when Pence sat on a 2-0 changeup that was up in the zone, sending a homer over the wall in center field for a 2-0 lead.
Gonzales was more than irritated by the pitch after the game and had little to say other than — “up” — when asked about the location. As the staff ace, he said he feels like it’s his responsibility to stop losing streaks.
“I’m not OK with it,” he said. “It’s hard to be OK with it when we lose, bottom line.”
Seattle cut the lead in half in the seventh. Jay Bruce blooped a double into right field and later scored on J.P. Crawford’s single to center.
The Mariners made a last push in the ninth against Kelley. Bruce reached with a one-out single and Crawford worked a walk to put the tying run into scoring position and the winning run on first base. But Kelley came back to strike out Dylan Moore and Long to end the game.