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Mariners stymied by A's left-hander

Mariners stymied by A's left-hander

OAKLAND - The first four games of the regular season exposed a couple of blemishes the Mariners need to address before Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard become available.

The current starting pitchers must throw fewer pitches early on, allowing them to go deeper into games, and the right-handed lineup available to manager Don Wakamatsu against left-handed starters must be more productive.

The Mariners' offense was left shaking its collective head again on Thursday afternoon, when another left-handed starter kept them at bay on the East Bay.

After being held to four hits and one run over seven innings on Tuesday night by Athletics lefty Dallas Braden, the Mariners were shut down on three hits and no runs by Brett Anderson in a 6-2 loss before 12,464 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Seattle (1-3) dropped the final three games of the series after winning on Opening Night.

"I thought we felt our way through it and I thought they came out and played. They outplayed us this series, flat-out. They played against us the way we wanted to play against them," said Wakamatsu.

The Mariners actually were in position to win three of the four games, but could not come up with the big hit, get the big out or make the big play in the second and third games of the series.

The finale was the exception as the Mariners fell behind in the third inning and stayed behind. It wasn't until the ninth inning that the offense showed some spunk.

Seattle scored two runs and had the bases loaded with one out when pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman grounded into a game-ending double play.

"The positive for me was the rally at the end to put pressure on them," Wakamatsu said. "It's shallow in a sense, but it's important for this club to start feeling like they'll never give up."

It was a feeling the team established last year and carried to an 85-win season.

But rallies were few and far between in this four-game series.

Of the 37 innings played, the Mariners had fewer than two hits in 34 of them.

That put more pressure on the pitchers, especially the starters, to keep the Athletics' hitters in check.

Right-hander Doug Fister seemed to be trying to make perfect pitches throughout every at-bat, instead of concentrating on pitching to contact -- which is his strength. He needed 96 pitches to get through four innings.

"We had lost a couple of games and he came in trying to save the day," Wakamatsu said. "You end up trying to be too fine and not give up anything. He is a pitch-to-contact guy and has to get us through more than four innings."

"I threw a lot of strikes, but they had some good at-bats," Fister said. "Things didn't go my way, but it's something to learn from. They have some good hitters over there and they make you work."

The Mariners are trying to do the same thing on offense, but were no match for Anderson. He threw just 17 pitches in the first two innings and cruised into the seventh with a four-run lead.

Seattle's only hits off Anderson, an 11-game winner last season as a rookie, were first and seventh inning singles by Chone Figgins and an infield hit by Jack Wilson.

"Anderson was awfully tough," Wakamatsu said. "We talked about him last year. This kid has a chance to be a pretty special pitcher."

Anderson faced one batter over the minimum through six innings, but a Figgins single and a walk to Franklin Gutierrez starting the seventh inning gave the Mariners the makings of a comeback rally.

But it fizzled quickly as right-handed reliever Chad Gaudin retired the next three batters, the Athletics added two insurance runs in the eighth inning off right-hander Jesus Colome -- promoted from Triple-A Tacoma before the game -- and held off one last Mariners spurt in the ninth.

"A couple of our guys had great at-bats all day long," Wakamatsu said, "but other guys are pressing right now. The guys at the top of the order are trying to feel their way through it right now, but we'll get better."

And not a day too soon.

The Mariners are batting .200 as a team heading into the three-game series against the Rangers. Ichiro and Figgins are 3-for-15, Milton Bradley is 1-for-13; Ken Griffey Jr. is 1-for-7, catchers Rob Johnson and Adam Moore are a combined 1-for-12, and Kotchman is 2-for-12.

So far, Gutierrez (6-for-14) is carrying the offensive load, with a little help from Matt Tuiasosopo, who went 2-for-4 and drove in a run in his regular-season debut -- at first base -- on Thursday.

At least the bullpen is in good shape entering this weekend's three-game series against the Rangers in Arlington.

Jesus Colome, promoted from Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday morning, pitched three innings in the series finale.

"He did a phenomenal job," Wakamatsu said. "Our concerns are going to be our efficiency with starting pitching and having more quality at-bats from our offense."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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