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M’s strand six in scoring position, lose to Twins

By Christian Caple Tacoma News Tribune

SEATTLE – Roenis Elias pitched well enough to help the Mariners win on Sunday, throwing far better in his 2015 big-league debut than he had in spring training, or in his first three starts this season at Triple-A Tacoma.

And, unlike the self-inflicted failure that led to Saturday night’s loss, the Mariners made it through this entire game without committing an error. That rates as news for a team that had already committed 14 through its first 17 games.

So consider it particularly disheartening, then, that this 11-inning, 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Safeco Field had more to do with Seattle’s inability to drive in baserunners – and there were plenty of those – than anything else.

“We played decent baseball,” said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who was ejected in the top of the fourth inning for arguing with home-plate umpire Sean Barber. “We just didn’t get hits when it counted. … It was not a good day from an offensive standpoint.”

Not even close. The Mariners (7-11) batted 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position – they stranded six such runners throughout the game – and had chances to score in the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth innings.

But they failed to score each time, and Joe Mauer’s two-run triple with two outs in the 11th inning off M’s reliever Tyler Olson (1-1) provided the separation the Twins needed.

Minnesota (8-10) had runners on first and second when Mauer came to the plate with two outs in the 11th. Olson tried to throw him a slider away. Instead, he threw him a slider over the plate, a pitch Mauer slapped past right-fielder Nelson Cruz to drive in both runners and cap a 3-for-5 day that also included an RBI double in the third.

“I got ahead in the count,” Olson said, “and I just left it over the heart of the plate.”

The Mariners could have won the game in the bottom of the ninth, when Dustin Ackley led off with a single and moved to second base on Brad Miller’s sacrifice bunt. But Rickie Weeks, pinch-hitting for catcher Jesus Sucre, struck out looking and Austin Jackson struck out swinging to end the inning.

So, Seth Smith’s solo homer to left field and Logan Morrison’s RBI groundout in the fourth stood as Seattle’s only offense.

“They’re making good pitches in tough situations,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to give those guys credit. They did a good job. They got a timely hit when they needed it.”

Elias mostly gave the Mariners what they needed, too, pitching 52/3 innings in place of the injured Hisashi Iwakuma. Called up from Triple-A, the left-hander allowed a run in the first and another in the third, but settled down thereafter.

He threw 105 pitches (and 70 strikes), struck out six and walked three, and exited after issuing a two-out walk to Twins catcher Chris Herrmann in the sixth.

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