ARLINGTON, Texas – This is not what the Mariners needed from their still-patchwork rotation in an ongoing effort to stay afloat until their disabled list begins discharging patients.
Manager Scott Servais sent out his two best (healthy) starting pitchers over the last two days and neither one reached the fifth inning.
James Paxton lasted just 3 2/3 innings Friday in a 10-4 thumping by the Texas Rangers in the start to a three-game weekend series at Globe Life Park.
A day earlier, Ariel Miranda went four innings in a 6-2 loss at Minnesota.
Result? The Mariners (33-36) fell back to three games under .500 for the first time in two weeks. They also sank a little deeper into fourth place after rising last weekend into second place.
“It does put us in a tough spot,” Servais admitted. “We’ve been trying to hold it together with glue and everything else. You rely on those guys to get you deep into games.
“It allows you to give your bullpen and your long guys a break to regroup and regather. The last couple of nights have been rough.”
The most alarming aspect Friday was a second straight subpar outing from Paxton (5-2) after a season-long, albeit injury-interrupted, run of success. He gave up seven runs while recording just 11 outs in 91 pitches.
“Just mushy stuff,” he said. “I just wasn’t very good at all.”
His ERA spiked from 1.69 to 3.23 over his last two stars.
“I’m trying to figure it out right now,” Paxton said. “Something is definitely not right. The past two starts, you can tell that something’s not quite there.
“I’m in the process of trying to figure that out and figure out how to fix it. I think it’s a very small thing. It’s something I can work out in the bullpen.”
The flip side was no better.
The Mariners faced a pitcher in Texas right-hander Tyson Ross who had missed that last 14-plus months because of a shoulder injury the led to surgery to relieve Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
Ross (1-0) weathered some early command problems and didn’t permit a hit until Mike Zunino’s two-out bloop single in the fifth inning.
“Early in the game,” Servais said, “his command was a little bit off, but we really didn’t get much going against him.”
The Mariners took advantage of Ross’ early wildness in grabbing a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Ben Gamel led off with a walk, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Robinson Cano’s grounder to first.
Paxton worked through two innings before trouble surfaced after one-out walks to Delino DeShields and Shin-Soo Choo in the third inning.
It led to five runs.
Elvis Andrus lined an RBI double to left, and Adrian Beltre followed with a two-run single to right. Carlos Gomez struck out, but Rougned Odor pulled a double to right.
Jonathan Lucroy’s two-run single through the left side made it 5-1 before Paxton closed out a 40-pitch inning. Paxton had not allowed more than five runs in any of his previous starts.
The Rangers finished Paxton with a two-run fourth.
Robinson Chirinos led off with a homer to left-center field. DeShields followed with a single and stole second. Paxton retired the next two batters before the Mariners summoned Tony Zych.
That didn’t help.
Zych hit Beltre with a pitch and gave up an RBI single to Gomez before ending the inning. That run was changed to Paxton. It was 7-1 and, at that point, the Mariners still didn’t have a hit.
The Mariners closed to 7-2 on Nelson Cruz’s two-out RBI single in the sixth, which finished Ross.
Any glimmer of a comeback faded later in the inning when lefty Zac Curtis, recalled earlier in the day from Double-A Arkansas, served up a three-run homer to Gomez.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Lucroy broke the game open with a two-out grounder that squirted through the left side and capped the Rangers’ five-run third inning against Paxton.
PLUS: Gamel had a single and two walks in four plate appearances. His average is up to .347.…Jarrod Dyson hit his fourth homer. He has never previously hit more than two in any season and had just seven in his seven previous seasons…Cruz went 2-for-4 and even beat out a slow grounder to third base…Zunino had two of the Mariners’ seven hits and raised his average to .248.
MINUS: Kyle Seager hit line drives in his first two at-bats but right into the Rangers’ defensive shift. The result was two line outs. Seager finished 0-for-4…Taylor Motter was hitless in four at-bats, which dropped his average to .199…first-base umpire Joe West, the crew chief, missed two reasonably easy calls. Both were overturned on appeals by the Rangers.
STAT PACK: Cruz leads the American League with 53 RBIs and has 45 in his last 47 games.
QUOTABLE: Gamel has been doing early work at first base and made his professional debut there in the eighth inning. He handled one play without incident, taking a throw from second baseman Tyler Smith for an out.
“You have to play out there in a game,” Servais said. “He’s never done that before. He’s done it now. We’ll continue to work on that a little bit.
“The story on Ben Gamel is what a great job he’s done in the batter’s box, and he’ll continue to play the outfield for us. That’s the focus.”
SHORT HOPS: The Rangers made a barrage of roster moves prior to the game that even the Mariners could respect in terms of volume. They designated right-hander Dillon Gee for assignment in order to activate Ross from the 60-day disabled list. They also optioned infielder Jurickson Profar and first baseman/outfielder Ryan Rua to Triple-A Round Rock; and placed reliever Tony Barnette on the disabled list because of a sprained finger. Those three moves cleared space to activate outfielder Carlos Gomez and first baseman Mike Napoli from the disabled list and recall lefty Dario Alvarez from Round Rock.
ON DECK: The Mariners and Rangers continue their three-game series at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time Saturday at Globe Life Park. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (3-6, 6.11 ERA) will face Texas left-hander Martin Perez (2-6, 4.56).