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 left-hander continued his successful run at Safeco 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 little success against Saunders through seven innings.
The Rangers' bullpen followed a solid start from Alexi Ogando by shutting down the Seattle bats in the final four innings. Texas relievers allowed two hits and no runs, with Joe Ortiz (2-0) posting his second career win two days after his first and veteran Joe Nathan getting his fourth save of the season.
"There are going to be times you have to win like this," said Andrus, who went 1 for 3 with a run and an RBI. "Our pitching kept us in the game, then we got two key hits in the late innings. Sometimes that's all you need."
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.
"Saunders did a great job tonight," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "A great effort. We need to loosen things up a little bit for him and do better offensively."
The only run Saunders allowed was unearned, and it came after an uncharacteristically rough defensive inning from the Seattle infield in the sixth.
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 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 forceout. Ryan caught the throw at second, then turned and threw to third baseman Kyle Seager, who tagged out 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.
Smoak admitted after the game that he might have been better off tagging Beltre as he came off first to set up an easier double-play force at first, or he could have thrown to the plate to get a force and avoid the run.
"My first instinct (after dropping the line drive) was throwing to second," Smoak said. "Something better could have happened out of it, but it is what it is."
Wedge said Beltre helped shield the action as he came off first base and added that Smoak didn't have much time to think.
"There's so much going on right there," Wedge said. "He's a long ways away (from home plate). You take your first reaction and go from there."
The Rangers went to their bullpen in the bottom of the sixth. Robbie Ross and Ortiz continued to silence the Seattle bats, and 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 leadoff walk and moved to second on a Leury Garcia groundout, Andrus drove a two-out, RBI single into right field for a 2-1 lead. Andrus then stole second, got to third on a wild pitch, and scored when Beltre singled to left to extend the lead to 3-1.
"You try to create things as best you can," Andrus said.
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. 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.
The Mariners (5-8) have now scored three runs or fewer 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 a run on him in the sixth. Through the first five innings, he didn't allow a runner to get past first base while allowing only two singles and a walk.
NOTES: The Gutierrez injury 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. ... Andrus was at designated hitter Saturday, and 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.