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Mariners, Bryce Miller fall 5-1 in Texas as Rangers break out on offense

Seattle’s Luke Raley reacts Wednesday after striking out against Texas during the first inning at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.  (Getty Images)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

ARLINGTON, Texas – They weren’t going to be held down for the entire series. The hard contact was going to yield not just hits, but homers. And they were eventually going to score runs. Their lineup features too many proven hitters to be stymied for an entire series.

A night after being shut out by the Mariners, the Texas Rangers ended a stretch of 13 consecutive scoreless innings, blasting a pair of solo homers in the fourth inning off Seattle starter Bryce Miller and tacking on more runs against the bullpen in what would be a decisive 5-1 victory.

While the Mariners believe in the overall success of their pitching staff, they also knew that the Rangers were going to score runs. They needed to just limit big innings with clean play in the field, while also scoring runs at a similar rate to keep the game close.

They did neither.

Seattle committed two errors in the field, allowed multiple extra baserunners and base and failed to make a handful of other plays needed to win. They also mustered just one run despite having runners on base and in scoring position in five of the first six innings.

“Free bases got us,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “We walked too many guys. We had a chances offensively early in the ball game with not a whole lot of luck getting those guys in.”

Looking for a little redemption in his native Texas against a team that tormented him last season, Miller hoped the addition of a split-finger fastball and better command of a two-seam fastball might help combat against the Rangers’ slew of left-handed and switch hitters.

As a rookie, Miller made two starts vs. Texas at Globe Life Field and gave up a combined 13 runs on 14 hits in 6⅔ innings pitched, including five doubles and three homers.

From a statistical and potential aspect, this outing was better.

Miller’s final line: four innings pitched, two runs allowed on four hits with four walks and five strikeouts. But the four-plus innings were a grind of long counts, pitches thrown with runners on base and hard contact.

“It felt like every inning was like 20 minutes long,” Miller said. “I threw too many pitches. I got into a lot of deep counts and four walks doesn’t help. It was a weird game. Every at-bat was pretty deep. I didn’t have too many quick at-bats.”

Miller pitched into the fifth inning but didn’t record an out, walking Marcus Semien, the first and only batter he faced.

“You have to give the Rangers credit,” Servais said. “They were very disciplined. They had a game plan against Bryce. He had to work really hard.”

His teammates gave him a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, forcing Texas starter Jon Gray to throw 31 pitches .

When J.P. Crawford was scratched from the starting lineup about an hour before first pitch due to right oblique soreness, Josh Rojas was moved up to the leadoff spot.

He responded by starting the game with a triple to center field on Gray’s fourth pitch. Rojas later scored on Mitch Haniger’s fielder’s choice to first base.

It was Seattle’s only run. The Mariners went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position, stranding nine baserunners. The absence of Crawford and catcher Cal Raleigh, who had emergency dental surgery early Wednesday morning, was glaring.

“Going into the game you know what he’s gonna do, he’s gonna throw a lot of sliders, that’s his pitch,” Servais said of Gray. “Obviously, the lineup changes late affected things. You get some right-handed hitters in there and a couple of our better lefties were not in there tonight, but he executed.”

But the first inning wasn’t much easier for Miller. He needed 28 pitches to get three outs. He struck out Semien, issued back-to-back, one-out walks to Corey Seager and Nathaniel Lowe, and came back to strikeout Adolis Garcia and Evan Carter.

All the deep counts for Miller led to the Rangers having quality contact on the balls they did hit. Of the Rangers’ 10 balls in play off Miller, all but two had exit velocities of more than 100 mph.

The fourth inning was nothing but balls hit off the barrell. After Lowe lined out to left, Garcia jumped on a 3-1 sinker – the fourth sinker he’d seen in the plate appearance – and blasted it over over the wall in center to tie the game. Julio Rodriguez retreated and made a leaping effort, but the ball hit off the top of his glove as it went over the fence.

“It’s a tough play,” Servais said. “It’s right at him and over his fence. It’s tough to go back and make that jump. It was a heck of an effort.”

Carter took advantage of a splitter left up in the zone, launching it into the seats in right-center to put the Rangers up 2-1 in the fourth.

“The fourth inning, I feel like today I didn’t really mix the two fastballs really well,” Miller said. “I think the last few games I’ve done a better job with that. The pitch to Garcia, in a vacuum that’s a good pitch, but I had already thrown him like four sinkers in that at-bat.”

Miller came back to strike out Josh Smith for the second out. But he walked Wyatt Langford and gave up a single to Jonah Heim to find more trouble. The inning ended on Leody Taveras’ liner to Rodriguez in center.

“Both of the fastballs play best, and the splitter play best whenever I’m going: four-seam, sinker, four-seam, sinker and mix them so they can’t sit on one,” he said. “I felt like earlier I threw a lot of four seams and then later I threw a lot of sinkers, so I can learn from it.”

For Miller, who had a large group of family and friends make the trip from New Braunfels and other parts of Texas, there were signs of success against the Rangers.

“You look at my two starts in Arlington last year, I think I gave up 13 runs combined,” he said. “Getting through three clean innings and getting through four, I definitely better than I did last year here. It’s not ideal how it went, but I seem improvement.”

Miller was lifted from the game with the Mariners trailing 2-1.

Texas added three more against the bullpen. Lefty Tayler Saucedo cleaned up the fifth inning with timely double play. He retired Carter to start the sixth, but hit Smith with a pitch. Servais called on Tyson Miller. But he gave up a single to Langford and a RBI single to Jonah Heim that was made worse when Mitch Haniger lost the ball as he was about to throw it in, allowing another run to score.

Texas took advantage of a Mariners fielding error in the seventh and added another run on Carter’s RBI triple to right-center.