A lack of offense has abruptly slowed the Seattle Mariners’ pursuit of first place in the AL West.
The Mariners look to break out of their slump against one of the most vulnerable pitching staffs in the majors when they open a four-game series against the Texas Rangers on Monday.
Seattle (54-41) is an AL-best 19-9 since June 20, but is coming off consecutive shutouts to Toronto. After losing 1-0 on Saturday, the Mariners dropped Sunday’s series finale 8-0. They managed just three hits in each of those contests, and have never been shut out in three straight games in the franchise’s 31-year history.
Seattle, which has not lost three straight since dropping six in a row June 13-19, was 7 1/2 games out of first after that skid, but has climbed within two games of the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.
The Mariners look to get back on track against the Rangers (42-56), who have the second-worst team ERA in the majors at 4.95. Seattle has won six of eight over Texas this season, averaging 7.8 runs in those games.
Ichiro Suzuki is hitless in his last eight at-bats, but is 13-for-35 (.371) against the Rangers this season and is batting .389 (14-for-36) lifetime against Kevin Millwood (6-8, 5.50 ERA), who starts for Texas Monday.
Millwood gave up four runs - one earned - and three hits in six innings of a 6-0 loss to Oakland on Wednesday after going 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his first three starts this month. He’s 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA in his last seven starts.
“He’s pitching like our ace,” manager Ron Washington told the team’s official Web site. “He sets the tone. He’s done a very good job. We expect Millwood to do what he expects out of himself - that is to be consistent.”
The right-hander has posted a 2.70 ERA in winning his last three home starts after starting the season 1-3 with a 9.87 ERA in his first four outings at Rangers Ballpark.
Millwood is 1-1 with a 5.29 ERA in three starts against the Mariners this season, and 6-4 with a 4.03 ERA in 12 starts against them in his career.
Texas fell to Cleveland 8-3 on Sunday, and has lost four of five.
Sammy Sosa did not play after getting hit in the head by a pitch Saturday. Washington said he plans to have Sosa, who’s batting just .129 (4-for-31) in his last nine contests, play this game.
Seattle’s Horacio Ramirez (5-2, 5.89) made a strong return from the disabled list his last time out and now tries to shake his road woes when he takes the ball Monday.
After spending nearly two months on the DL with left shoulder tendinitis, Ramirez allowed two runs and five hits in a season-high seven innings of a 4-2 win over Baltimore on Monday in his first start since May 24.
“I just need to find a way to carry that onto the road,” Ramirez told the team’s official Web site.
The left-hander is 0-2 with a 13.21 ERA in four road starts this season with the Mariners losing each of those games.
Ramirez made his only career start against the Rangers in his season debut, allowing five runs - one earned - and seven hits in six innings of a 14-6 win on April 15.