ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Take Mitch Moreland out of the lineup and the Texas Rangers have only one player hitting better than .235.
The offensively inept Rangers lost for the fifth time in six games Tuesday night, striking out 11 times in a 2-1 loss to J.A. Happ and the Seattle Mariners.
“It’s a long season. … This obviously isn’t the April we set out to have,” first-year manager Jeff Banister said. “These guys aren’t pressing. They are out there battling. They are still energetic.”
Moreland, who is hitting .304, was scratched from the starting lineup because of a stiff left elbow. The first baseman will have surgery Wednesday to remove loose bodies from his elbow and be out at least two weeks.
The Rangers are hitting a major league-worst .212 through 20 games, with Prince Fielder’s .350 average leading the team and leadoff hitter Leonys Martin next at .235. Cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre climbed to .200 with a hit Tuesday, but the five batters that followed him in the order finished the night at .163, .132, .167, .156 and .143.
“We’ve got to be able to string hits together (and) get on base,” Banister said. “Happ was a little tougher than what we’ve seen.”
Happ (2-1) doubled his season strikeout total with nine in 6 2-3 innings, including one nine-batter stretch with seven strikeouts.
“I don’t think he had his best velocity fastball tonight, but certainly had real good command,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Fernando Rodney worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his sixth save in seven chances, and second in as many nights in Texas.
Rickie Weeks homered for Seattle and Nelson Cruz had three hits, including a double and triple in the same game for the only time other than a June 2009 game while playing for the Rangers.
Texas lefty Ross Detwiler (0-3) struck out five while allowing two runs in 5 1-3 innings. He lowered his season ERA from 10.95 to 8.66.
Detwiler, a reliever for Washington last year, pitched for the first time in nine days. Texas skipped his previous turn in the rotation during a stretch with off days to allow him to work more with pitching coach Mike Maddux.
“I felt like it was a step in the right direction. I’m definitely not completely there,” Detwiler said. “There’s a few pitches I want back obviously, but it was a lot better than the first few.”
Jake Smolinski, who singled in the seventh and scored on Delino DeShields’ double, played right field for struggling Shin-Soo Choo, whose .096 batting average (5 for 52) is the lowest among all qualifying players. Banister called the break an opportunity for Choo to “just unplug from the starting slot, and just get some extended work time” with hitting coach Dave Magadan and assistant hitting coach Bobby Jones. “I still believe in who I am,” said Choo, a .280 career hitter who has only one hit in his last 32 at-bats. “The numbers are really bad, but not worse than how I’m feeling.”
Mariners: Relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen, on the disabled list since April 13 with a hyperextended right elbow, played catch in the outfield for about 25 minutes before the game. He could throw a bullpen session Friday.
Rangers: LHP Derek Holland said he feels great, but is still about 10 days from being able to play catch. Holland strained his left shoulder after throwing only one inning in the home opener April 10. He will not throw again until a scan shows the shoulder is healed. The next scan is expected to be done May 8.
Mariners: Seattle tries for its first three-game winning streak of the season when Felix Hernandez makes his 44th career start against Texas, the right-hander’s most against any team. He struck out 12 to beat the Rangers on April 18, but is 13-21 against them.
Rangers: Wandy Rodriguez makes his second start for Texas since initially joining the team on a minor league deal April 6. The only time he has faced Seattle before, he allowed one run in 7 2-3 innings to win against Hernandez. That was in 2007 when still pitching for Houston.
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