Rangers clobber Mariners, 11-3

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Kyle Seager likely should have been getting more kudos from teammates than he was inside another quiet, losing clubhouse.

That’s because only a solo home run by Seager in the ninth inning Sunday kept the Mariners from becoming the first club in the history of The Ballpark to score two runs or fewer in a series of three or more games. As for the game itself, the home run came with this 11-3 loss to the Texas Rangers already long decided and the Mariners now facing a crossroad far earlier than anyone expected.

A team touted by many as an improved offensive version capable of at least .500 ball limps into Houston with a 7-13 record and some of the worst hitting totals in baseball.

“We’re still going to have a good offense,” Seager insisted after going 3 for 4 with the homer and a double to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. “You go through your ups and downs over the course of a season. It’s a long season. So, we’re going to have a good offense. Nobody in here is questioning that.”

Perhaps not, but a few of the 44,599 fans, along with those tuning in on the Mariners’ regional sports network might be adjusting preseason forecasts. The Mariners have been hit hard by an injury to Michael Saunders, the recovery from a broken finger by Michael Morse and the continued health struggles of Franklin Gutierrez.

But those players healthy enough to get on the field look nothing like the gang that used a patient, disciplined plate approach all spring to prepare for the regular season. That approach vanished Sunday as the Mariners struck out nine times in five innings against Rangers starter Justin Grimm.

Mariners starter Aaron Harang kept the score close for four innings while his team kept stranding runners. Then, in the fifth, a tired-looking Harang yielded a grand slam to dead-center by Nelson Cruz on what the pitcher described as a “middle-middle” fastball.

It was one of three home runs allowed by Harang, 34, making his second start for the Mariners since being acquired from Colorado just days after the Los Angeles Dodgers had also designated him for assignment. Leonys Martin went deep off Harang to tie the score at 1 in the third inning and then Mitch Moreland put the Rangers ahead to stay with a two-run homer off Harang in the fourth.

Adrian Beltre added a two-run homer in the sixth inning off Blake Beavan, who had come on to finish the fifth for Harang.

“I was throwing a lot of pitches there that last inning and maybe ran out of gas a bit,” said Harang, who was up to 105 when pulled.

Harang looked decent to start his outing after a first-inning double by Seager put the Mariners up 1-0. But Harang’s command faltered as the game wore on.

“I started pulling some pitches, missing and ended up falling behind,” he said. “Then I was throwing too good (of) pitches over the plate and wound up getting hurt by it.”

The pitching let the Mariners down late in all three games, and they were nonetheless outscored 23-3 in the series.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge was particularly peeved with the continued high strikeout totals on a day his team put runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings with the game still close.

“I’m upset, to say the least, with our approach with two strikes,” Wedge said after the Mariners whiffed 11 more times on the day. “It’s something that’s been addressed, something that has to be better. The strikeouts are ridiculous. We’re much better than that.”

The Mariners struck out 32 times in the series and have fanned 63 times in their past five games.

“We kind of crashed as a team offensively after being really good if you go back to spring training and the beginning of the season,” Wedge said. “I mean, for a good couple of months there, we had a pretty good stretch going for most of our guys and they kind of all crashed together.”

Seager is one of the few young players doing anything at the plate.

He is the first to hit a home run among a young group that includes Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero and is batting .378 his last 10 games after a rough start.

Now, the Mariners hope the rest of the team can follow Seager’s lead.

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