Lloyd McClendon wouldn’t make the easy excuse for his team being shutout for the 16th time this season.
With a three-hour plus rain delay pushing the end of Saturday night’s game to about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning, it would be understandable that players from both teams would be a little sluggish for the Sunday matinee at Globe Life Park.
But McClendon wouldn’t blame Seattle’s 1-0 loss to the Texas Rangers on sleep deprivation.
“Not at all,” McClendon said. “It was a great ball game and we came up on the short end of the stick.”
It wasn’t about being tired. It was about getting beat.
McClendon then referred to a common quote from his close friend and now former manager of the Rangers, Ron Washington, to sum it up.
“That’s baseball,” he said. “$#%^ happens.”
Instead of getting a rare four-game sweep in Texas, the Mariners (78-64) had to “settle” for a 3-1 series win over the team with the worst record in baseball. There was no disappointment in going 5-2 on the road trip.
“Yeah, I’ll take that,” McClendon said with a grin. “I told my guys, ‘It was a great road trip.’ It was tough loss today but they battled their asses off. It’s baseball. That’s the way it goes. We’ll move on.”
The loss wasn’t quite as costly for the Mariners in terms of the wild card race. Over in Oakland, the A’s blew a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth with their bullpen walking in the tying and go-ahead runs in a 4-3 loss to the Astros. That means the Mariners remain just two games behind the A’s (80-62) in the wild card standings.
Seattle returns home for a six-game, seven-day homestand starting Monday at Safeco Field with three-game series against the Astros, then the A’s.
“We know what we aren’t going to win them all,” said Austin Jackson. “But we are just focusing on each series and trying to win each series. That’s the game plan.”
With two tough left-handers – Seattle’s James Paxton and Texas’ Derek Holland – getting the start on Sunday and the odd situation from the night/early morning before, it was no surprise that the game remained 0-0 for the first five innings. Neither team mustered much for offense, but did have minor scoring opportunities.
The only run came in the sixth inning. Leonys Martin led off the inning with line drive single up the middle. Martin then stole second and moved to third on Daniel Robertson’s ground ball to second base.
Perhaps the biggest mistake for Paxton in the inning was walking light-hitting Adam Rosales in the next at-bat, bringing Adrian Beltre to the plate with runners on the corners with one out, instead of with two outs.
“You want to attack those guys and not give up free bases,” he said.
Beltre did his job, lifting a fly ball to deep center field and allowing Martin to tag up and trot home.
“Beltre hit a good pitch – fastball up and in,” Paxton said. “I was trying to go inside on him. It could have gotten in a little bit more. But he muscled it into the outfield for the sac fly.”
That was it for the Rangers offense.
Paxton was done after the sixth inning, allowing the one run on five hits with walks and three strikeouts.
“I was hitting my spots pretty well with my fastball,” Paxton said. “Changeup was pretty good against those righties. Cutter was also good. It’s getting a lot closer. My offspeed is starting come around.”
Holland bettered Paxton’s outing, tossing seven shutout innings and giving up six hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He was efficient and at just 66 pitches before a 27-pitch seventh inning.
“That’s what good pitchers do, they shut teams down,” McClendon said. “He’s a good pitcher. He’s a proven pitcher. It wasn’t a fluke. He threw a hell of a game.”
The Mariners had a few opportunities against Holland, who was making just his second start of the season after missing most of it with back and knee issues. Seattle had runners on base six out of the seven innings Holland was on the mound, but couldn’t get a run across.
“When we had those opportunities to get runs, he beared down and made some really good pitches in some tough situations,” Jackson said.
Seattle had a last gasp in the ninth inning against closer Neftali Feliz. Kendrys Morales drew a one-out walk and Kyle Seager singled, moving emergency pinch runner and normal reliever Danny Farquhar to third. But the Mariners couldn’t get the tying run across. James Jones popped out to short and pinch hitter Justin Smoak lined out to left field to end the game.