SEATTLE — The once-streaking Mariners are suddenly struggling.
Seattle couldn’t muster much offense for the second straight game and the bullpen couldn’t keep things close, a combination that led to a meek 4-0 loss Saturday to the Minnesota Twins in front of 24,524 at Safeco Field.
The M’s have lost back-to-back games in the series and three of four overall to squelch what had been a torrid stretch through the All-Star break that included eight straight wins.
Seattle (49-55) hadn’t been shut out since June 19 and has a total of three runs in its last three losses.
“You know what, I’m not going to give that any life right now,” interim manager Robby Thompson said of the slumping offense. “We had been swinging the bat well and we’ve tried to keep some positive energy around here and not give it life and let that grow.”
Much of the credit Saturday went to Twins starter Samuel Deduno, who allowed three hits in seven innings, striking out six, to improve to 7-4 with a 3.18 earned-run average.
Deduno has won three starts in a row, matching a career high.
“His ball moves a ton,” said Mariners shortstop Brad Miller. “I think he was able to run it, cut it, mix it up and change speeds. He did a nice job.”
Thompson called Deduno “effectively wild.”
Minnesota (45-56) took the lead for good in the fourth inning, which started with a leadoff double by Justin Morneau. The American League MVP in 2006 took third on a bloop hit by Chris Colabello and eventually came home on a ground out by Clete Thomas.
Mariners starter Aaron Harang (5-9) hadn’t allowed a hit until Morneau’s double, but had already thrown 65 pitches in the first three innings.
That workload led to an early exit as Harang was pulled after 107 pitches through five innings, having allowed one run on three hits with five strikeouts.
“I felt really good, felt like I was making some good pitches, but it definitely was a battle,” said Harang, who has a 3.24 ERA in his last eight starts.
Minnesota took advantage against the Mariners’ bullpen in the sixth, when the visitors loaded the bases against Charlie Furbush before scoring off birthday boy Yoervis Medina when he walked Aaron Hicks to bring Colabello home.
Medina, who turned 25 Saturday, struck out Doug Bernier to end the inning, but allowed solo home runs to Brian Dozier and Morneau in the seventh. The right-hander took the loss in Friday’s game, as well.
“We’ll keep running him out there and he’ll be OK,” Thompson said of Medina.
The Mariners had scoring opportunities early, particularly in the second and fourth innings, but couldn’t get a big hit. They went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
With a runner on the seventh, Justin Smoak crushed what looked to be a two-run home run, but his drive hooked just foul into the right-field stands.
In the eighth, Ibanez nearly brought a run in, as well, but a hard-hit ground ball was handled superbly by Twins first baseman Morneau for the final out of the inning.
“Obviously we weren’t able to get too many things strung together,” said Miller, who went 2 for 4.
Not quite the production expected from a Mariners team that came into the day leading the league with 5.67 runs per game in July.
“I felt really good, felt like I was making some good pitches, but it definitely was a battle.”I felt really good, felt like I was making some good pitches, but it definitely was a battle.”