SEATTLE — If you’re counting the runs scored by the Mariners in their four home games, you now need to use both hands. The total up to seven after Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
The more important count is four straight losses and that, at 2-5, the Mariners occupy last place in the American League West Division. With the exception of winless Minnesota, they also possess the league’s worst record.
"We need to get runners on base," designated hitter Nelson Cruz said, "and the middle of the lineup should drive them in. It’s nothing complicated. That’s what should be done."
Cruz did his part with an RBI double and a two-run homer. Everyone else? Not so much
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The bullpen absorbed much of the blame in the three weekend losses to Oakland — and Mike Montgomery let Monday’s game get away after replacing starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who delivered a quality start.
Those four runs proved decisive when Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning on a 402-drive to center.
But the growing concern, even this early, is the lack of production from a lineup that general manager Jerry Dipoto sought to lengthen and strengthen in a series of off-season moves.
"We’ve struggled to put consistent quality at-bats together," manager Scott Servais said. "It just isn’t happening right now. What are you going to do? You’ve just got to keep battling. Eventually you’ll come out of it."
Texas starter Colby Lewis (1-0) gave up one run in the first inning but retired 13 in a row before Leonys Martin opened the sixth inning on a grounder to first. Lewis didn’t cover first on the play.
Lewis retired the net two batters before handing a 3-1 lead to the bullpen. The Mariners also failed to produce a momentum-shifting hit after loading the bases in the seventh inning.
By then, the Rangers were playing add-on against Montgomery.
It started well.
Cruz provided the Mariners with something they failed to get all weekend: a base-hit with a runner in scoring position. His two-out double past third scored Seager from second base.
The Rangers pulled even in the second inning on a walk, a wild pitch and a two-out bloop single from Elvis Andrus.
"I did struggle with my command," Iwakuma said. "The one thing that I kind of regret is we scored early, and I gave up that run early."
Texas took a 2-1 lead in the third inning after right fielder Seth Smith failed to make a clean pick-up on what appeared to be a one-out single by Adrian Beltre. It was scored a double, which moved Nomar Mazara to third.
Prince Fielder followed with a sacrifice fly.
The Rangers added another run in the fourth on Rougned Odor’s two-out RBI double, a legitimate double, after a pair of ground-ball singles earlier in the inning.
Fielder’s two-out RBI single in the seventh against reliever Mike Montgomery pushed the margin to 4-1. The Rangers put the game away with a three-run eighth against Montgomery,
PLAY OF THE GAME: Second baseman Robinson Cano had a chance to keep the deficit at 4-1 in the eighth when Rougned Odor hit a hard grounder to the right side with one out and the bases loaded.
Cano said he ball kicked up on the final hop. It clanged off his arm for what was scored a two-run single. The Rangers added another run in the inning on Nomar Mazara’s sacrifice fly.
PLUS: Nelson Cruz is showing some punch. His two-out RBI single in the first inning ended a 0-for-16 skid by the Mariners with runners in scoring position. Cruz also hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning…reliever Tony Zych struck out the side in the Texas ninth.
MINUS: Shortstop Ketel Marte was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Look for him to get a break Tuesday; Luis Sardinas is likely to start…Nori Aoki’s slide carried him past second base in the first inning, which resulted in a caught stealing. That left the Mariners at 0-for-4 on the season…right fielder Seth Smith remains limited by a sore groin. He somehow avoided an error in the official scoring when he failed to make a clean pick-up on what appeared to be a single in the third inning, but the misplay led to a Texas run…some very liberal scoring by Eric Radovich in awarding hits on plays major-leaguers should make.
STAT PACK: Hisashi Iwakuma had won six straight decisions against the Rangers before Monday’s loss.
QUOTABLE: Texas catcher Brett Nicholas made his big-league debut by throwing on Nori Aoki on a stolen-base attempt in the first inning. Nicholas also got two hits in four at-bats.
Nicholas’ grandfather, who lives in Tacoma, attended the game.
"Just to have him here," Nicholas said, "it means the world. I’ve still got goose bumps. He taught me the game and taught me to love the game. Just to be able to do that in front of him, it’s just a memory I'll never forget.
"As far as memories go, that’ll be No. 1."
SHORT HOPS: Cano’s streak of reaching base safely ended at 31 games when he went hitless in four at-bats…Texas pitchers had gone 40 innings without allowing a homer before Nelson Cruz went deep in the eighth inning…The attendance dipped to 13,468 after three crowds of 30,000-plus for the weekend games against Oakland.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners