SEATTLE -- Renovations at Safeco Field have not exactly turned it into a hitter-friendly park to date, especially for the hometown Mariners, and they certainly haven't changed the success of new pitcher Joe Saunders there.
The veteran Seattle Mariners left-hander continued his successful run at Safeco Field on Saturday night but had to settle for a no-decision as the Mariners' bats were quiet again, resulting in a 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers.
Elvis Andrus broke a 1-1 tie with a two-out single in the eighth, then came around to score an insurance run on an Adrian Beltre single. The runs came after Texas hitters had very little success against Saunders through his seven innings on the mound.
Saunders allowed three hits and an unearned run before the Rangers did their damage against reliever Carter Capps in the eighth. Saunders (1-2) has a career ERA of 1.71 at Safeco -- mostly as an opposing pitcher - and his 7-0 record remained unchanged despite Saturday's loss.
Texas reliever Joe Ortiz (2-0) earned his second win of the series, and the second of his career, after a solid five-inning start from Alexi Ogando, who gave up one run off five hits.
The Mariners (5-8) have now scored three runs or less in five of their six home games this season. Team management moved in the outfield fences a few feet in spots in an attempt to generate more offense, but the Mariners have still relied on pitching ahead of hitting thus far.
Saturday's game was another example, with Ogando and Saunders putting up zeroes for 4 1/2 innings before Seattle's Jason Bay had a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the fifth to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
After Saunders didn't allow a runner past first base through the first five innings, the Rangers finally got to him in the sixth -- although it took an error and a mental lapse from Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak to get a run across.
After sure-handed Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan botched a likely double-play ball to put runners at first and second with no outs, the Rangers sacrificed the runners and loaded the bases on an intentional walk to Adrian Beltre with one out. Texas cleanup hitter Nelson Cruz then hit a low liner right at first baseman Justin Smoak, who had the ball bounce out of his glove but cleanly fielded it and threw to second base, instead of going to the plate, to get a force-out. Ryan caught the throw at second, then turned and threw to third baseman Kyle Seager, who tagged out baserunner Ian Kinsler in a rundown for the final out of the inning.
Because Kinsler was not in a force situation, and the runner from third crossed home plate before the tag, Texas got its first run to tie the score 1-1.
That tied the score 1-1, and the Rangers went to their bullpen in the bottom of the sixth. Robbie Ross and Joe Ortiz continued to silence the Seattle bats, while Texas (8-4) put together a two-out rally in the eighth to take its first lead of the game.
After Craig Gentry drew a lead-off walk and moved to second on a Leury Garcia groundout, Andrus drove a two-out, RBI single into rightfield for a 2-1 lead. Andrus then stole second, got to third on a wild pitch, and easily scored when Beltre singled to left to extend the lead to 3-1.
The Mariners didn't even threaten in the eighth or ninth innings, with six consecutive outs to drop to 2-4 on the current homestand. Rangers closer Joe Nathan earned his fourth save of the season with a perfect ninth inning.
Since scoring a handful of meaningless late runs in a 16-9 loss to Houston on April 9, Seattle has scored 10 runs in a four-game span. Three of those were losses.
Saunders, who has a career 7-0 record at Safeco Field, didn't allow a runner to get past first base in the first five innings Saturday. He gave up only two singles and a walk without allowing a run.
Ogando was just as effective early on, throwing four scoreless innings of two-hit ball. He got defensive help from fill-in shortstop LeGarcia, who came in front of second base on a slow-rolling grounder from Kendrys Morales and made a scoop-throw with his glove for the final out of the first inning.
The Mariners finally got to Ogando in the fifth, when catcher Kelly Shoppach led off with a double and moved to third on Dustin Ackley's single to right. Ogando retired the next two batters before Jason Bay's bloop single fell just out of the reach of diving of Gentry in center field to score Shoppach and give Seattle a 1-0 lead. A Morales groundout ended the inning while stranding runners at first and third.
NOTES: Seattle center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was not in the lineup because of a sore groin. That left the Mariners with just three healthy outfielders: Bay, Endy Chavez and Raul Ibanez, all of whom are 35 years of age or older. Starters Michael Saunders (shoulder) and Michael Morse (hand) are already sidelined by injuries, although Morse could be back as early as Tuesday. ... The Mariners are 0-3 in days games this season, although Sunday's game against Texas will mark their first at home. ... Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus was at designated hitter Saturday, while Lance Berkman and Mitch Moreland were out of the lineup while Texas faced a left-handed starter. ... Monday will mark Seattle's first off day of the season after 13 consecutive games. Every other team in baseball has already had at least one day off.