Seattle goes 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
CHICAGO — Roenis Elias’ return to the starting rotation was a mixture of the good and bad that he displayed earlier this season with the Mariners and recently with Class AAA Tacoma.
In the end, he gave the Mariners a fair enough chance to beat the White Sox on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field
But squandered opportunities with runners on base from the Mariners’ offense were the ultimate deciding factor in a 4-2 loss to Chicago.
“We had an opportunity early and didn’t take advantage of it,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We had opportunities throughout the game and didn’t take advantage of them.”
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It was a familiar refrain from early in the season, when the Mariners (59-69) were abysmal with runners on base and in scoring position. They’ve been a better team from an offensive standpoint since the All-Star break. But Seattle went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position Thursday and stranded seven runners. They left the bases loaded twice.
The Mariners mustered its runs on a Franklin Gutierrez two-run homer off White Sox starter Carlos Rodon. Rodon pitched six innings, allowing three hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
“I thought he was OK,” McClendon said of Rodon. “He threw some decent sliders at times. His command was not great. We went outside the zone at times to help him.”
Elias (4-7) was about the same. He wasn’t awful, but wasn’t particularly effective, either. The left-hander worked 62/3 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits with three strikeouts.
“I think the first inning kind of bit him a little bit,” McClendon said. “Other than that, for the most part, he settled down and threw the ball OK.”
Adam Eaton led off the game with a single. An error by Brad Miller, who was filling in for Kyle Seager at third base, helped keep the inning alive. Eaton later scored on a two-out single by Avisail Garcia for a 1-0 lead.
“I felt good with my fastball command,” Elias said through interpreter Nasusel Cabrera. “My curveball wasn’t very good. I was spiking it. I was trying to throw it for a strike.”
Chicago tacked on two runs in the third. Eaton was again an issue for Elias, leading off with a single up the middle. He scored on Jose Abreu’s line-drive double to center. The White Sox made it 3-0 on Trayce Thompson’s double into the left-field corner that easily scored the slow-moving Abreu.
Chicago added a run in the fifth inning. Elias hit Eaton in the back with a fastball to start the inning and he scored on Abreu’s sacrifice fly to left field.
“I need to focus on that leadoff hitter,” he said. “I was inconsistent on that.”
Down 4-0, the Mariners did little against Rodon for the first five innings. In the first, they loaded the bases with two outs. But Rodon found his command long enough to strike out Mark Trumbo on three pitches.
From there, Rodon retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced. The Mariners broke through in the seventh. Robinson Cano led off with a walk and Gutierrez followed with a two-run homer on 3-2 fastball to right-center to cut the lead to 4-2. It was Gutierrez’s ninth homer and sixth in 19 games.
The Mariners had their chances in that inning to add more, possibly even tie the score. Trumbo singled off Jake Petricka and Seth Smith doubled off left-hander Zach Duke to move Trumbo to third with no outs.
But Duke struck out Miller and Mike Zunino — mostly on pitches not resembling anything close to a strike — and then got Ketel Marte to fly out to end the threat. It was the second time the Mariners left the bases loaded.
“Second and third with nobody out, if we’d went up without a bat, we’d probably would’ve had a run in and the bases loaded,” McClendon said. “That’s tough.”
Seattle again was able to get the tying run on base in the eighth inning against right-hander Nate Jones. Austin Jackson drew a leadoff walk and Cano singled with one out. But Gutierrez and Trumbo each grounded out.
There would be no chances in the ninth inning. Closer David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 frame to notch his 27th save.
Nelson Cruz extended his on-base streak to 37 games when he tried to stretch a single into a double, but was thrown out.