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April 17, 2014 at 4:59 PM

Rangers 8, Mariners 6

BOX SCORE … 04.17.14 Box Score

For the first time in the 2014 season, the Mariners have fallen below .500. They are 7-8 and plenty of fans believe that they will never be back on the other side of .500 again.

The 6-3 start has been doused by a stretch where Seattle has lost five of its last six, including three of four in the series to Texas.

“This series was tough for us,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.

After taking the opening game, the Mariners dropped the next three games in a variety of fashions. But McClendon found some positives in his team. Less than 24 hours after squandering Felix Hernandez’s gem in a gut-punch, walk-off loss, the Mariners found themselves down 4-0 after two innings of poor pitching from Ramirez on Thursday.

But they didn’t just roll over on a getaway day and start preparing for the next series.

Instead, Seattle exploded for six runs in the third inning, knocking Rangers starter Tanner Scheppers from the game before it was over with.

Robinson Cano picked a good time to hit his first homer of the season, sending a 0-1 change-up over the wall in right field for a hard line drive.

“It feels good not because it was my first homer, but at least I hit the ball in the air,” Cano said. “The last four games if you saw my swing I was hitting a lot of ground balls. Hopefully, it will start going now.”

After signing a 10-year, $240 million contract in the offseason, there are plenty of expectations for Cano. But he wasn’t feeling any added pressure to hit that first home run.

“To be honest, I don’t really worry about that,” he said. “There’s five months left in the season. Most of the good hitters or guys who hit a lot of homers get them all in two months out of six. But I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t really care if it goes out. I want to have quality at-bats. You don’t waste your swings, chasing pitches,  hitting weak ground balls, and pulling balls.”

Given a 6-4 lead, Ramirez did nothing with it.

It was the third straight subpar start for Ramirez, who pitched just two innings (the shortest outing by a Mariners’ starter), giving up five runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

After his outstanding first start of the season, Ramirez has failed to go more than five innings in his last three, pitching a total of 11 innings and giving up 15 earned runs on 18 hits for a 12.27 ERA.

“I’m not sure,” McClendon said of Ramirez’s issues. “I can’t put my finger on it. Obviously, it was very disappointing. I thought he showed signs of coming out of it, and then he’d just revert back to lack of command with quality pitches. It’s very concerning. It’s something we are going to have to continue to try to work through.”

The Mariners have no choice. Their starting pitching depth is so thin that Ramirez has to stay in the rotation even if he seems to be pitching his way out of it.

“The problem was when I was 1-2 or 0-2, I didn’t execute the pitches,” Ramirez said. “Or else they’d foul it back and I didn’t execute the next pitch and they made me pay.”

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