M’s drop another close one

SEATTLE — The optimist Mariners fan — and there still might be a couple of you out there — can point to the fact that this club has been competitive in virtually every game lately; that the Mariners’ last seven losses have been by a combined 11 runs; that, despite a 2-5 homestand, they are just 1 1/2 games out of a wild-card berth as August approaches.

In short, hope.

By now, though, the cynical lot ought to be able to recite the recycled story lines of offensive ineptitude and nod knowingly at the latest example: a 3-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in 10 innings on a brilliant Sunday summer afternoon at Safeco Field.

In short, GRRRR!

The Mariners (54-51) have lost five of six and they’ve lost their hold on the second wild card in the American League. They don’t, however, sound like a lot that’s lost its collective cool.

“It doesn’t wear on us,” Dustin Ackley said. “We’re getting the hits; we’ve just got to get them at the right time.”

The Mariners had 10 hits on Sunday — three each by Ackley and Mike Zunino — and they had hope, indeed, when Zunino blasted a scorching line-drive home run to left field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, tying the score at 2-2. It was Zunino’s 15th homer of the season.

In the end, going 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and stranding 11 runners on summed up the day for the Mariners.

“That’s just not going to get it done,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.

Over their last 20 games, the Mariners are averaging just 2.2 runs, which helps explain this: 14 of the M’s last 19 games have been decided by two runs or less, and they have a 5-9 record in that stretch.

Further, 10 of those 19 games have been decided by one run, and the Mariners are 4-6 in those.

“It’s just that small of a margin for us,” Ackley said. “You see we’re in every game. We’re not getting blown out. We’re into it up until the end, and it’s just going to take that little last push for us to break through in these one-run, two-run losses.”

Manny Machado drove in the go-ahead run for the Orioles with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th inning off Mariners reliever Yoervis Medina (4-2), who took the loss on his 26th birthday. Medina was ahead 0-2 when he left a fastball over the plate for Machado, who drove the ball to the warning track in center field; James Jones tracked it down for the out, but it was plenty deep for Adam Jones to tag up and score from third.

“It wasn’t a good pitch,” McClendon said. “Right there you want to expand and try to get him to chase a pitch. But he was in the heat of the battle, he was trying to get a ground ball out. He went at him with his best stuff; it just didn’t work.”

Zach Britton struck out the side in the bottom of the 10th to close it out for the Orioles, who took three of four in Seattle.

Mariners rookie Roenis Elias’ left hand showed no ill-effects after leaving his last start with a cramping (left) forearm, allowing only one run on four hits in five innings Sunday.

“I definitely wanted to go back out there (for the sixth inning),” Elias said.

McClendon and his staff are closely monitoring Elias’ innings.

“He did a nice job,” McClendon said. “We have to be careful with this young man. We’re conscious of his innings, we’re conscious of his pitch count, particularly in stressful innings.”


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