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April 13, 2013 at 10:45 PM

Mariners not capitalizing on opportunities both at plate, in field

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What happens with a depleted offense that gives away chances is that it forces players to be perfect in all facets of their games and the Mariners simply couldn’t walk that tightrope tonight. Instead, they took a 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers and now have dropped eight of 11 since beginning the season with consecutive victories.

Many of you noted that first baseman Justin Smoak could have tagged Adrian Beltre out and then thrown on to second to cap a double play and get the Mariners out of that sixth inning unscathed. Which is true. Smoak admitted as much. The problem is, the play unfolded so quickly in front of him that the first baseman barely had time to think after nearly snaring that scorching liner by Nelson Cruz with the bases full.

“Sure I could have,’’ Smoak said of tagging Beltre. “He was right there. But your first instinct is to throw it to second base.’’

It didn’t help that Beltre scampering back to first base, anticipating the line drive would be caught, also partially screened Smoak from seeing what was going on.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge agreed that Smoak was in a tough spot there. He noted that there’s no way to ever prepare or practice for a situation like that and that Smoak was just relying on instinct with a bunch of things playing out in fron of him at once.

The Mariners did actually turn a double play on the knocked-down liner, but it took too long to develop and allowed the tying run to cross the plate. As if turned out, that was the only run the Rangers managed in seven innings off Joe Saunders.

It didn’t help that Brendan Ryan picked a rare moment to mess up a double-play grounder well before the line drive hit to Smoak. Once again, though, when the offense leaves zero margin for error, teams will lose games like this more often that not.

The Mariners are missing several key regulars, but had Alexi Ogando on the ropes early with his pitch count climbing. Still, they managed only one run and it came in an inning in which they had runners on first and third with none out after a Kelly Shoppach double and a Dustin Ackley single.

Even then, they barely squeezed a run across and it took a two-out single from Jason Bay to do it.

“We’re banged-up obviously,’’ Wedge said. “You’ve got three out of your first four hitters in the lineup out of there. But we still need to be doing better.

“We need to do a better job of being more disciplined and when you do get something to hit, we’ve got to square it up and put it into play.’’

The Mariners left two runners on in each of the second and sixth innings. They had counts in their favor all night, but couldn’t put solid wood on the ball as Ogando kept fooling them with sliders and hitter after hitter pounded the ball into the ground or popped it up.

“One run wasn’t going to win it tonight,” Shoppach said. “On most nights, one run is not going to eat those guys.”

Saunders allowed only three hits and no earned runs in his seven innings. It was his first time facing the Rangers since beating them in the AL wild-card game last October and he said he went into this one with similar intensity.

“To me, the starts are the same every time you go out there,” he said.

Saunders told me he actually didn’t have his best “stuff” coming out of the bullpen warmup session pregame, but got the type of contact needed.

“You’ve just got to keep the ball down,’’ said Saunders, who allowed only five flyballs all night. “We’ve got a great defense behind us and if you can keep the ball down and let them play, it will usually work out for you.’’

Usually it will, but not tonight. We saw that Gutierrez wasn’t used late in the game when he could have been, so clearly he was not available.

We’ll see it he’s in the lineup tomorrow.

One word on Ackley, who some of you noted had been using a different batting stance when he notched that single in the fifth. I asked Wedge about it and he confirmed that Ackley is making some changes as he struggles early.

“He’s making some adjustments to try to get comfortable, to the point where he’s ready to hit,” Wedge said.

Clearly, he didn’t look all that comfortable using that revamped approach picked up over the winter. We’ll see what the adjustments do for him.

The Mariners need adjustments from several players in a hurry. They are now 5-8.

Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: joe saunders; justin smoak; brendan ryan; dustin ackley

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