July 17, 2011 in Sports

Rangers send M’s to ninth straight loss

Tim Booth Associated Press
 

SEATTLE — That feel-good first half the Seattle Mariners put together, where for a brief moment they were within a sniff of the A.L. West lead, is long gone now.

There’s little doubt the rest of this season is about Seattle’s future.

Matt Harrison allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings, Mitch Moreland hit a three-run homer and the Texas Rangers won their 11th straight with a 3-1 win over the Mariners on Sunday.

Seattle dropped its ninth straight and, more importantly, has now fallen 11 1/2 games back of the streaking Rangers in the A.L. West. Even though Seattle slumped before the All-Star break, a good series against the Rangers could have rekindled a little hope of sticking around the division race for a few more weeks.

Instead, Seattle’s offensive woes hit a new bottom. The Mariners were outscored 17-2 and outhit 37-20. The Rangers also had 15 extra-base hits compared to just three for the Mariners and hit six homers, as opposed to none for Seattle.

“It’s been a tough stretch but what we’ve built hasn’t changed,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “What has changed drastically is in the standings. That is a tough pill to swallow, no doubt about it.”

It certainly didn’t help that Seattle ran into a Rangers squad in the midst of their second-longest win streak in franchise history. Along with outslugging Seattle, the Rangers’ staff also outpitched the Mariners.

Texas held Seattle to two runs in 36 innings in the four-game set. Going back to before the All-Star break, Texas pitching has allowed just two runs in its last 47 innings. But it’s more than just a five-game sample. During this 11-game streak, the Rangers’ collective ERA is 2.09 and opponents are batting .194.

For Harrison, Sunday was his second victory of the win streak and lowered his ERA to 2.91, the first time it’s been below 3.00 since late April.

“I think warming up in the bullpen I figure out what is working that day and run with that. Kind of like today I felt good with my sinker in the bullpen today so I went out and threw a lot of those, even if I got behind in the count,” Harrison said. “If it was 2-0, 3-1 I was able to throw that pitch any time I wanted to and keep it down in the zone and make them put it in play.”

Harrison allowed a leadoff walk to Ichiro Suzuki to start the game then proceeded to silence Seattle’s struggling bats. Thanks to a double play after Suzuki’s walk, Harrison faced the minimum into the fifth inning before consecutive singles by Justin Smoak and Greg Halman.

Seattle didn’t score there, but finally got to Harrison in the eighth after Bard doubled off the wall in left and scored on Jack Wilson’s single to center. But Suzuki finished off a 0-for-3 day with a strikeout and that was it for Harrison. Reliever Mark Lowe entered and got Franklin Gutierrez to close the eighth.

Neftali Feliz struck out a pair in the ninth for his 20th save in 24 chances and continued his domination of the Mariners, who are hitless as a team in 33 plate appearances against Feliz.

Seattle rookie Blake Beavan (1-1) minimized the damage all day — except for Moreland’s 12th homer in the second inning — and suffered his first career loss. Beavan kept Seattle close into the seventh inning. The former Rangers prospect was acquired in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Texas last July and was facing his former club for the first time. Beavan escaped a two-out bases loaded jam in the first inning and retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced. He allowed six hits, struck out three and walked two.

“I just tried to focus on hitting the mitt. Those guys, the thing they do best is hit mistakes, hit balls over the plate,” Beavan said. “I just tried to calm down and make a quality pitch and get a groundball.”

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