HOUSTON -- When people started talking up the Mariners as contenders for the American League West title this year, the expectation was their offense would be much improved with the addition of Nelson Cruz and several other veterans to a pitching-rich club.
But while Cruz has been sensational -- hitting his Major League-leading 11th home run on Friday -- the Mariners lost 4-3 to the Astros as their record fell to 10-13, six games behind the streaking Astros.
And while, yes, it's still early with the calendar just turning to May, manager Lloyd McClendon showed the first hints of frustration after his club failed to score more than three runs for the eighth time in its past 10 games.
"We've got to get going," McClendon said. "I'm seeing a lot of at-bats I don't like. We're much more professional than that. You've got to be able to slow things down and get it done and we're just not doing that."
The skipper mentioned needing to "shake it up or whatever we've got to do," but then indicated he was talking more about some lineup changes or different approaches rather than roster moves.
"Listen, I'm not after  games going to say our season is burning and let's blow it all up," McClendon said. "That's not very responsible and that's certainly not the message I'm going to send to my team. But do we need to work and get some things done? Yeah. But not blow it up, no."
Questioned about what specifically could be shaken up, he said: "Whatever we've got to do. We'll see."
Cruz launched another home run in a 2-for-4 day and is hitting .330 with 23 RBIs in his first 23 games. But the Mariners haven't taken advantage of that power show as much as hoped as the rest of the club is hitting .224 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs.
"I think, especially with runners in scoring position, we have to do a better job," Cruz said after the Mariners went 1-for-5 in that category to put their season average at .212. "Overall, we left too many runners on base. We need to improve that. The pitching is doing its job. We have to step up also."
What's the key there?
"I don't know," said Cruz. "But we have to focus a little more or relax or whatever it is and get it done. We're better than that."
First baseman Logan Morrison, who followed Cruz with a solo homer of his own in the ninth off Astros closer Luke Gregerson, said "it's a long season and this is a good team."
Morrison feels he's starting to heat up and said his ability to drive Gregerson's slider was an excellent sign that he's finally staying behind the ball better. He expects better things ahead for himself as well as teammates like Robinson Cano, Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller and the rest.
"I don't think we're worrying at all. We're fine," said Morrison. "Robbie is going to get going. Cruzer is doing great. I'm going to get going. Ack is going to get going. Brad is doing great. We just have to do the little things right, get guys in with runners on and less than two outs, make plays when they need to be made.
"Against good teams, you give them extra outs or miss location, they're going to take advantage. We have to do a better job of that, but I think we know we're a better team and we'll see what happens."