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Monday, July 2, 2012 - Page updated at 09:00 p.m.

Mariners struggle again on offense in 2-1, 10-inning loss to Red Sox

By Larry Stone
Seattle Times staff reporter

The Mariners on Sunday reached the halfway point of a season that has featured some encouraging signs, but overshadowed by a staggering inability to hit in their home ballpark.

Their 2-1 loss in 10 innings to the Red Sox at Safeco Field was merely a variation on a drearily familiar theme. The Mariners squandered numerous early opportunities to stretch a 1-0 lead, and watched Dustin Pedroia tie it with an eighth-inning homer off Jason Vargas. The Sox won it in the 10th on a David Ortiz sacrifice fly, pinning the loss on Brandon League.

"We had plenty of guys that had an opportunity up there to have a big hit for us," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge, who has done a lot of fuming this weekend. "When you make the starting pitcher (Boston's Felix Doubrant) throw 100 pitches in four innings and a third, you have to do a hell of a lot more than that. This is a game we should have been in a better position to win in the end."

Vargas blanked the Red Sox for seven innings — aided by a great diving catch by third baseman Kyle Seager with the bases loaded in the second — and deserved a better fate. His lone blemish was Pedroia's one-out homer in the eighth, which ended a 162 at-bat homerless streak for the former American League MVP. Pedroia hadn't gone deep since May 10.

"Him solving the Vargas mystery ... that was vintage," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said.

It was not much of a mystery to Vargas.

"Just one pitch," he shrugged. "I was pretty good the rest of the day. He's shown he can put his team on his back when he needs to. I wouldn't take it back. It was a fastball away. For him to hook it out of this park, you tip your hat and go get the next two guys."

The Mariners left eight on base, five in scoring position. Wedge was most irked by the fourth, which started promisingly with two walks. But Dustin Ackley couldn't get a bunt down and wound up striking out, Miguel Olivo was caught in a rundown after a ball got away from the catcher, and Chone Figgins grounded out.

Wedge noted with irritation that the Mariners have not executed bunts well recently.

"I've not been pleased with that," he said. "It's something we work on daily, but obviously we have to do more than that. When you're in those situations, especially when you're struggling to score runs like we are, you have to execute even more to get runners in scoring position.

"But we had other opportunities with runners in scoring positions. We just didn't come through. Just that one sac fly (by Ichiro in the third inning to score Figgins). We have to do better than that."

Assessing his team at the halfway point, Wedge said, "We have works in progress with a lot of individuals. Every player we have, to a man, needs to be honest with themselves and assess where they are, physically, fundamentally and mentally, and work to be that much better in the second half. If everyone takes care of their own backyard, the wins will take care of themselves."

Now, however, the Mariners are on pace for 94 losses. Wedge erupted after Friday's 5-0 loss and spent much of Saturday's pregame in meetings both collectively and individually.

"I said things (Saturday) that aren't easy to say but needed to be said," Wedge said. "They damn sure better have heard it. I'm not the kind of person to say something and not follow up on it.

"It's just important for everyone to understand, we are going to do this. It's just a matter of who's going to be along for the ride. There's no ifs, no in betweens, no 99 percent. I have 100 percent confidence we're going to accomplish what I came here to accomplish. It takes special people in that locker room to make it happen. We'll see."

One ongoing concern in the first half has been League, who gave up a one-out double to Ryan Kalish and a single to Pedroia in the 10th to put runners on the corners. Lucas Luetge replaced League and gave up a long fly to right by Ortiz that easily scored Kalish. League, selected as an All-Star on this Sunday one year ago, fell to 0-5.

"He's just been inconsistent," Wedge said. "Today's another example of that. This is a guy who should be pitching with more confidence. He had 37 saves last year, he got off to a good start this year. Every time he goes out there, it's another opportunity for him."

That goes for the team as a whole, but the Mariners' Safeco struggles continue. The Mariners scored just five runs in splitting this four-game series, and are hitting .197 in 38 games at home.

"With a chance to take three out of four from a pretty good ballclub, you've got to finish those games off," Wedge said. "We most definitely did not today."

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry.

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