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Mariners fall in another low-scoring game

Oakland outfielder Coco Crisp tours the bases after he hit a solo home run to lead off the game. (Associated Press)
Oakland outfielder Coco Crisp tours the bases after he hit a solo home run to lead off the game. (Associated Press)
By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

SEATTLE – His team still seeking answers after reaching yet another offensive low point, John Jaso tried to spell out how his fellow Mariners need to go about their remaining home games.

Jaso was the only offense the Mariners had Wednesday, his solo home run not enough to avoid a 2-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics. A Mariners team that lost starting pitcher Kevin Millwood to a recurrence of his groin problem in the third inning still managed to hold the visitors to only two hits.

But once again, it wasn’t enough. And Jaso agreed that it’s time for some changes in the way the Mariners approach things at home.

“It’s hard because no team that plays here really has the production that they would somewhere else,” Jaso said of Safeco Field, which had the roof open on a sunny afternoon. “You look at Texas and how many runs are put up on both sides when we go play at Texas.

“I mean, they are different places. But this still is a great place to play. And the challenge is doing the best with it, knowing things like, if you hit that fly ball, it’s not going to go out.

“So, you concentrate on hitting low line drives, hitting grounders and that’s what will beat the other teams that are coming in thinking the fly balls are going to go out.”

A few balls did go out Wednesday, with Coco Crisp taking Millwood deep to left on the second pitch of the game, followed by Jaso evening it up off Athletics starter Jarrod Parker in the second inning.

Things stayed tied until Oakland notched its first and only hit off Hisashi Iwakuma, a one-out liner over the wall in left-center by Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh.

Iwakuma had just thrown Cespedes a low slider for a ball that evened the count 1-1. He tried to come back with the same pitch, but left it in the middle of the plate and saw it golfed out by Cespedes, who has hit five of his nine homers off M’s pitching.

It was an otherwise solid 3 2/3 innings of emergency relief for Iwakuma, who could be a candidate to spot start if Millwood can’t make his next start. Iwakuma said, through interpreter Daisuke Sekeiba, that he remains intent on starting, even though the Mariners are hopeful Millwood’s latest setback is only minor.

“When I was in Japan in my first season as a starter, it was difficult to get everything right until about May or June,” he said. “Of course, here, I’m just getting used to bullpen sessions to get ready to pitch in games. So, that’s why I’ve gotten better since March and April. My conditioning is getting better than it used to be and I’ve had better preparation for games. That’s why I’m better than I used to be.”

Seattle put two men on in the ninth on an error and a hit batter, but Ichiro Suzuki struck out for the third time to end the game.

“It’s frustrating because I know these guys are a much better offensive club than what we’re seeing them do here at home,” manager Eric Wedge said.

“I don’t want to hear anything about the fences, or this, that and the other. It’s about what they’re doing at home plate and putting up good at-bats and hitting the ball hard.”

The Mariners have lost five of seven overall and nine of 12 at home and once again dropped 13 games under 500.

A crowd of 18,158 saw the Mariners lose while throwing a two-hitter, following consecutive outings in which Seattle starters fanned 10 batters each without qualifying for a win.

Seattle pitchers struck out 32 in three games against the Athletics, who have the worst batting average and strikeout rate in the American League. But the Mariners lost the series because they scored only four runs in three games.

The teams combined for a mere six hits and could not sustain rallies the few times anyone did reach base.

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