SEATTLE -- Kyle Seager's game-winning homer in the eighth off reliever Sam Dyson wasn't even discussed in the Rangers' clubhouse following a 4-3 loss to the Mariners on Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field.
It was all about the walks. That's what started the trouble after the Rangers took a 3-0 advantage into the bottom of the seventh. Texas leads the American League in bases on balls allowed
"Absolutely, it's very challenging; disappointing to say the least," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "The bullpen has got to find a way. The sheer number of walks out of the bullpen has been extremely challenging. You keep doing that, you're going to get hurt."
That's what happened in the seventh, first with a leadoff walk by starter Andrew Cashner and three more from Jose Leclerc. That and a pinch-hit two-run single by Danny Valencia is how the Rangers lost their three-run lead. The home run by Seager only kept the agony from being prolonged.
Rangers relievers have had their moments of brilliance, like six scoreless frames in a 13-inning win on Friday. But Sunday's loss left the Rangers' bullpen with a collective 5.47 ERA on the season.
"It's surprising given the level of talent out there," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "There is a lot of room for improvement. Youth is a factor, inexperience is a factor. We have to do a better job of getting these guys through it. I have to do a better job."
Cashner took a shutout into the seventh but walked Seager to lead off the inning.
"I felt good," Cashner said. "I thought I had a good game plan and executed it well. The walk got away from me."
Cashner had thrown 94 pitches, so Banister brought in Leclerc, who has been outstanding up to this point. He entered the game with an 0.82 ERA and had walked just two batters in his first 11 innings while striking out 17. This was his first appearance in five days, and he had trouble throwing strikes.
"I was overthrowing my pitches," said Leclerc, whose ERA jumped to 2.31. "I was a little pumped up."
Leclerc walked Taylor Motter, then got Guillermo Heredia to hit a slow grounder back to the mound. Leclerc was able to get the force at second, putting runners at the corners, and struck out pinch-hitter Mike Freeman. But he walked the next two hitters to force in a run.
"He has been so good," Lucroy said. "This is the first time I've seen him like this."
Banister brought in Alex Claudio to face left-handed-hitting Ben Gamel, but Mariners manager Scott Servais countered with Valencia, a right-handed hitter, off the bench, and he tied the game with a single to center.
"Obviously make a switch there, bring Claudio in, a guy that's maybe a little calmer in that situation," Banister said. "I felt like he made a good pitch to Valencia, but he got enough of the bat on it to lift it up for a soft liner to center field."
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.