Mariners again bit by first-inning woes

'It does suck a little life out of you,' Servais says of early deficits

Mariners again bit by first-inning woes

ARLINGTON -- The Mariners have been one of baseball's best comeback teams this season, but that's not a habit manager Scott Servais wants to rely on. And it's certainly a bigger challenge when your team gives up 16 runs in the first inning as the Mariners have done over their past four games.

That trend spelled trouble again Saturday in a 10-4 loss to the Rangers as starter Nathan Karns allowed three runs in the first and never got on track as the Mariners dropped two games back in the American League West with their second straight loss at Globe Life Park.

"The first-inning woes, a little bit," Servais said. "You look up and you're down right out of the chute. We'll get it turned around, it's just a frustrating stretch we're in right now."

Karns gave up four hits in the first, but they included a bloop RBI hit by Rougned Odor and a two-run double by Ryan Rua that just snuck over the third-base bag.

"It was just a tough inning," said Karns, who saw his five-game win streak snapped. "I thought I was making quality pitches, you can't do anything about Odor's up-and-in bloop and the tight-rope double down the line. It's just one of those things that's tough to kind of get through, but I've got to get through that and I can't let it spill over to the other innings."

Karns didn't control the damage, however, as he was unable to control his fastball in the second when he walked four batters to allow another run to cross and his pitch count to climb. He wound up lasting just four-plus innings and allowing a season-high seven runs.

"The second and third inning, for some reason, I just lost my fastball command," he said. "I was cutting it and sinking it and it was doing stuff I'm not normally used to it doing. Those are long innings and it's tough to make pitches over and over again when you're not really making 'em. It's tough on our offense, tough on our defense, so I've got to do a better job of shutting it down and getting back on track after that."

The early woes have been contagious for a Mariners rotation that now has a 9.34 ERA over its last nine starts, with 72 hits and 47 runs in 45 1/3 innings.

While the Mariners came back for a 16-13 win on Thursday in San Diego, the early deficits are difficult on a club that has now lost six of those last nine to fall to 31-24.

"It makes it tough on the offense, as good as our offense has been," Servais said. "It does suck a little life out of you and it takes so much pressure off the other pitcher when he's got three, four, five runs to work with early. He can go to all his pitches and he's not on edge. We like the guy to be on edge a little when we're at the plate."

The Mariners are without ace Felix Hernandez for another couple starts and Servais said the current group just needs to get back to doing what it's done most of the season.

"These are our guys," he said. "Unfortunately Felix is out, but that's only one day. The other guys have to step up a little bit and give us an opportunity. We're not looking for shutouts or anything, just keep us in the game and give us a chance to win it. I believe in the guys. There are going to be bumps in the road and we're on a pretty rocky one right now, but we'll get through it."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.