By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — Perhaps the best thing to be said of the Seattle Mariners’ three-game series with the Texas Rangers is that it’s mercifully over.
It was three forgettable days for the Mariners at the Ballpark in Arlington with three straight losses that offered little semblance of hope that this season will be any different than the past three.
Of course, Sunday’s 11-3 loss was just the 20th game of the season. It means there will be 142 more to play, and the Mariners aren’t panicking.
“I go back to what I’ve said throughout, and I stand by it — I think we are going to be a good offensive ballclub,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We’ve got too many good hitters. It’s going to happen. It’s frustrating right now. It’s a tough series. But you know what, they have to be tough and get through this.”
In the search for positives, the Mariners at least scored in the game — something they failed to do in the previous two games.
But the three runs were fleeting exceptions in an otherwise brutal stretch of a lack of offensive production.
The Mariners did have eight hits in the game, but only one of them — Kyle Seager’s first-inning double to score Endy Chavez — came with runners in scoring position.
“When you aren’t hitting as a whole you are really not going to do much with runners in scoring position,” Wedge lamented.
Getting a first-inning run offered some brief hope that the Mariners’ offense might come to life. Instead, it was only a few more heartbeats — with a run in the fifth on Chavez’s double to center and an inconsequential run in the ninth on Seager’s solo homer to right field.
While the three runs represented improvement, they were far from enough to give Seattle a chance to win.
Texas beat up Mariners’ starter Aaron Harang.
Light-hitting Leonys Martin tied the score in the third inning with a solo home run to right field — the first of his career. The Rangers took the lead for good an inning later when Mitch Moreland crushed a two-run homer deep to center field.
Texas broke the game open in the fifth inning, scoring five runs off Harang — highlighted by Nelson Cruz’s 431-foot grand slam to center field.
“It was just a fastball right over the middle,” Harang said, shaking his head.
It was the fifth career grand slam for Cruz — and all five have come at home.
Harang never made it out of fifth. He was replaced by Blake Beavan two hitters later. He was charged with eight runs on eight hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
“I started guiding pitches and ended up falling behind in counts and had to start throwing pitches over the plate, and that’s where I got hurt,” Harang said. “Early on, I was pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters.”
Harang’s last start in Arlington was worse. In 2002 with the A’s, he never made it out of the second inning, giving up seven runs on three hits with four walks.
“It was one of those parks where the outcome hasn’t been good,” Harang said. “Hopefully later in the year when we come back down here things will be different.”
Even with an 8-2 lead, the Rangers didn’t let up.
Adrian Beltre ripped a two-run homer in the sixth and pinch hitter Jeff Baker added an RBI single in the eighth off of Beavan.
Rangers’ starter Justin Grimm had no such troubles. He pitched six innings giving up the two runs on six hits with a walk, while striking out a career high nine batters.
Grimm was particularly effective with his curveball — a pitch rated best in the Rangers’ organization by Baseball America.
“He did a good job of throwing that breaking ball off the plate, and we were chasing it,” Wedge said.
Seattle hitter after Seattle hitter were fooled by the pitch, often taking wild hacks at pitches out of the strike zone.
“It’s a good pitch for him, it’s got a lot of bite to it and it’s sharp,” Seager said. “But we need to make adjustments in the game and try to do something with it.”
The Mariners struck out 11 times in the game and now have 167 strikeouts on the season, second most in the American League behind Houston with 172.
“I’m upset to say the least at our approach with two strikes,” Wedge said. “It’s something that has been addressed and something has to be better. The strikeouts are ridiculous. We are much better than that.”
What can they do?
“You have to stick your nose in there and fight with two strikes,” Wedge said. “If you do that, you’ll do a better job of laying off these pitches that they are swinging at that are out of the strike zone or do a better job of putting balls in play that are in the zone.”