SEATTLE — It’s hard not to look at Monday’s 2-0 loss to struggling Texas as anything but a missed opportunity for the Mariners in their quest to end a 12-year postseason drought.
Their attack flatlined over eight innings against somebody named Miles Mikolas, who entered entered the night at 1-5 with 7.48 ERA over nine previous starts while plugging a hole in Texas’ injury-riddled rotation.
Not exactly what the Mariners had in mind for the start of a six-game homestand after capping a 6-3 road trip with a three-game sweep at Boston.
“As good as we’ve been,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and I hate to break the news, we’re going to lose a few games. And we’re probably going to lose a few games that people thought we should win.
“That’s just the way it goes. This is baseball. I say it all the time, it’s hard to win at this level every night. As disappointed as people are, I’m sure the world is probably caving in tonight, we’ll be OK (Tuesday).”
The loss trimmed the Mariners lead to one-half game over idle Detroit in the race for the American League’s final wild-card spot. It also prevented them from climbing to within five games of the division lead.
This was also the Mariners’ seventh straight game against a last-place team, and they are 4-3 in that span. They play two more against the Rangers before first-place Washington arrives for three weekend games.
Mikolas spent parts of the last two seasons as a reliever in San Diego before two off-season trades sent him first to Pittsburgh and then to Texas.
He opened the season as reliever at Triple-A Round Rock before injuries at the big-league level forced him into a starting role. Monday was easily his best outing to date.
“It was great,” Mikolas said, “especially knowing coming in that they were a hot team. I was able to come in and pitch my game and start the road trip out on the right note.”
Mikolas limited the Mariners to a three singles in an efficient 92-pitch outing while striking out five and walking one.
“I thought he had good stuff,” said Logan Morrison, who had two of the three hits against Mikolas. “His fastball jumps on you. He has a four-seamer and a two-seamer. His breaking balls were tight and kept us off-balance.
“He threw strikes and missed barrels.”
Neftali Felix protected Mikolas’ gem with a scoreless ninth for his seventh save. The Rangers won for just the 13th time in 35 games since the All-Star break.
Mariners starter Roenis Elias (9-11) wasn’t nearly sharp — he needed 101 pitches to complete five innings — but he yielded just one run and three hits. The problem, he said, isn’t fatigue.
“My velocity is still the same from start to finish,” said Elias, who has already pitched more innings than in any of his three previous seasons. “It’s just the mechanics, and they put together one good inning there.”
Texas got it only run against Elias after Elvis Andrus started the fourth inning with a line single to center. Andrus moved to second with one out when Adrian Beltre drew a four-pitch walk.
J.P. Arencibia then lined an RBI single to left. A two-out walk to Martin loaded the bases before Cano saved a run by making a fine play on Telis’ grounder.
Texas challenged, apparently believing first baseman Logan Morrison didn’t have his foot on the base, but the call stood after a replay review. So Elias limited the damage to one run.
The Rangers scored their second run after Leonys Martin led off the seventh inning against Brandon Maurer with a soft chopper past the mound. Second baseman Robinson Cano barehanded the ball and threw wild to first.
Martin wound up on second with a single and an error. Tomas Telis then put down a perfect bunt that turned into his first major-league hit as Martin went to third.
Rougned Odor’s grounder to short scored the run on a fielder’s choice.
That was it.
“You look at the numbers,” McClendon said, “you think we ought to dominate tonight. It doesn’t work that way. You still have to go out and play the game. Tonight, the Texas Rangers played a better game than we did.”