Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon isn’t fidgety or breathing fire over this early run of losses.
It is still way too soon to panic over a slow start.
Seattle dropped its fourth consecutive game, 3-1, to Texas on Friday night in front of 36,606 at Safeco Field to kick off its nine-game homestand.
Yovani Gallardo easily had his best game for Texas, pitching six-plus scoreless innings to outduel just-as-good J.A. Happ, who went seven strong innings but gave up a pair of runs — one on an RBI double by Prince Fielder in the first inning, and the other on a solo home run by Robinson Chirinos to lead off the fifth.
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“I tried to get ahead (in the count),” Happ said. “I don’t think I did quite as good of a job as I did in Oakland (in a 5-4 win). But I felt I was able to throw different pitches for strikes.”
Happ was the least of the Mariners’ problems, although he did face a Rangers lineup Friday that sent up eight batters with a season batting average below .200.
Meanwhile, the Mariners’ bats were loud, just not finding holes.
And they had two huge opportunities to post big innings.
Against Gallardo — in his first season with the Rangers after spending eight years in Milwaukee — in the third inning, Seattle loaded the bases on Austin Jackson’s single to right field with one out.
Up came newcomer Seth Smith, who has been one of the team’s hottest hitters, bringing a .357 batting average into the game.
And Smith smashed a sharp grounder that was gobbled up by second baseman Rougned Odor, who started an inning-ending double play.
In fact, Gallardo induced double-play grounders in three consecutive innings — the second, third and fourth innings.
In the seventh inning, Gallardo gave up a sharp single to Nelson Cruz and walked Kyle Seager before exiting with no outs.
Reliever Shawn Tolleson, who had retired 12 of the 13 hitters he’d faced coming into the game Friday, got the first out on a Logan Morrison fielder’s choice grounder to first baseman Adam Rosales, then struck out Dustin Ackley and Mike Zunino to end the threat.
“That is part of hitting — you are going to get in slumps, and you are going to get in hot spots,” Cruz said.
Zunino’s team-leading 15th strikeout came on an inside 2-2 fastball that he swung at and missed.
“There will be better days,” McClendon said. “Offensively, we are a much better club than we were last year.
“I think it will come, and it will come fast.”
Seattle’s run came in the eighth inning on Seth Smith’s sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Brad Miller to cut it to 2-1.
Texas grabbed a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning on Rosales’ run-scoring single that hit the third-base bag.
“One thing I’ve expressed to them is that we have to continue to grind it out,” McClendon said. “There are going to be good moments, bad moments, tough moments and moments that want to make your manager cry. We have to fight our way through it.”
Cruz’s five-game streak of hitting a home run came to an end, but the right-handed slugger still went 3 for 4 — all on sharp singles.