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Originally published June 19, 2013 at 10:13 PM | Page modified June 20, 2013 at 2:29 PM

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Mariners get no offense to back strong outing by Saunders

Joe Saunders allows just six hits in eight innings, but Mariners manage just two hits off C.J. Wilson in 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Thursday

M’s @ Angels, 7:05 p.m., ROOT Sports

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ANAHEIM, Calif. – Mariners catcher Mike Zunino had never seen fellow former first-round draft pick Mike Trout play in person until this series.

By Wednesday night’s seventh inning, he probably figured he was better off watching him on television. It was Trout who ended the final scoring chance the Mariners had in a 1-0 loss Wednesday night to the Los Angeles Angels by hauling in a Zunino drive to the left field wall with two on in the seventh inning.

A half-inning prior, Trout had scored the game’s only run from third base on a Joe Saunders changeup that skipped on by Zunino for a wild pitch. The loss dropped the Mariners nine games below .500 on a night they managed just two hits off Angels starter C.J. Wilson and saw several hard-hit balls run down by defenders.

“Aw man, that whole outfield, they can really play,’’ Zunino said. “It’s one of those things where it’s a valuable weapon to them. He (Trout) is obviously a great defender, and he’s done it many times before.’’

The last thing the Mariners need right now is to face a team that can defend like the Angels. Seattle’s offense has hit several additional home runs this season, but lately has resembled squads of two or three years ago in terms of ineptitude when the ball doesn’t leave the yard.

The Mariners are struggling to get runners on base, then are among the game’s worst at driving in anyone they do get on. They have seen their scoring limited to just an inning or two per night throughout a seven-game trip that ends Thursday, causing most contests to be closer than they have to be, or turn into blowout losses when their opponent gets going.

Saunders did as good a job possible of limiting the damage on the six hits he allowed over eight innings in tossing the complete game. But it wasn’t enough to overcome his offense’s struggles against Wilson.

It was Trout who broke the scoring ice, in front of 35,401 at Angel Stadium, by using his speed to leg out a double on a ball cut off by left fielder Raul Ibanez before it could reach the corner. Trout then tagged up and took third on a fly ball hit to medium-depth in right center and then scored easily on the wild pitch.

“It was a changeup down and away,’’ Zunino said. “It just sort of sped up on me a bit. We were obviously just trying to be careful over there in that situation and wanted to keep the ball down in the zone.’’

Saunders didn’t have much to complain about the rest of his 100-pitch effort. But he clearly wanted that one back.

“It was a tough one,’’ Saunders said. “I’m more mad at myself for letting a run score on a wild pitch. It’s just one of those things where runs were hard to come by tonight.’’

Runs have been impossible to come by for his team the two times Saunders has now faced the Angels. He debuted with the Angels in 2005 and spent parts of six seasons pitching with them. His Diamondbacks team managed just one hit here off Ervin Santana in a 2-0 loss his only previous start facing the Angels.

“I just picked the wrong day to pitch, really,’’ Saunders quipped.

Saunders said he knew he would have to step up his game the way Wilson was dealing. The only other Seattle scoring chance came in the second inning when Kendrys Morales reached on a high chopper that Wilson allowed to hit the ground – perhaps hoping it would go foul.

Morales later took second on a wild pitch and then – two strikeouts later – Zunino walked to put two on. But Michael Saunders hit a pop-up foul to shallow left and it was run down by shortstop Erick Aybar.

The Mariners didn’t get a solid single until Kyle Seager lined a ball to right in the seventh, and Michael Morse was then hit by a pitch to put two on with one out, but Ibanez took a called strikeout and Zunino’s ball was hauled in by Trout.

“Nobody else in the game catches that ball,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said, adding that his team hit several more balls hard than it had the prior night. “I thought it was going to be out of here, but it must have had a little bit of topspin.

“But a ball that’s hit that hard and not real high, right over your head, to get back there like he did and catch it? Nobody else in the game can do that.’’

Over their last dozen games, Mariners starters have an earned-run average of 1.77. But the team’s record over that span is just 6-6 because the Mariners have averaged just 2.42 runs per game.

“You’ve got to score if you’re going to have a chance to win,’’ Wedge said.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @gbakermariners

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