The last thing the Mariners needed Monday was for left-hander Ariel Miranda to take a big step backward. This was that and more.
Miranda failed to make it through the second inning in a 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
"He didn’t have much in the tank at all tonight," manager Scott Servais said. "You could kind of see that early on. I was hoping to get a couple of innings out of him. It didn’t happen.
"He’s running on fumes right. I think that’s what we’re seeing."
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The loss came at the start of a crucial seven-game trip and dealt another blow to the Mariners’ postseason aspirations. They fell to 71-73 and are now 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
They have 18 games remaining.
Club officials had hoped Miranda’s dominant performance in his previous outing against Houston — one hit in six innings — stemmed from correcting a delivery flaw. (The suspicion is he might have been tipping his pitches in recent weeks.)
It’s uncertain whether Miranda’s problems Monday reflected a relapse or just a bad night, but the Rangers clubbed him for four runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings and got some good swings even when down in the count.
Worse, the two costliest hits — two-run doubles by Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo — were in left-on-left situations.
Six strong innings by Andrew Moore provided the Mariners with an opportunity to rally back, but they went silent over the final six innings after early homers by Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger.
Texas starter Cole Hamels (10-3) pitched through the sixth inning before Matt Bush, Jake Diekman and Alex Claudio closed out the Rangers’ victory. The Mariners struck out 11 times and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"We struck out too much tonight," Servais said. "You’ve got to put the ball in play. Nothing good happens when you strike out."
Miranda (8-7) gave up two runs and three hits in the first inning. After a single and walk put runners at first and second with one out, Maraza drove a two-run double to deep center field for a 2-0 lead.
The Mariners answered with a leadoff homer from Seager to start the second inning. Mike Zunino’s one-out double provided an opportunity to pull even, but Hamels struck out Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel.
Miranda didn’t survive the second inning, when the Rangers extended their lead to 4-1 on Choo’s two-run double, but the Mariners again struck back with a homer against Hamels, a two-run drive by Haniger in the third inning.
The game’s final run came on Delino DeShields’ homer against Moore in the fourth inning. It was the only hit that Moore allowed.
***Surgery for Dyson: Outfielder Jarrod Dyson will miss the remainder of the season after opting to undergo surgery to repair a strained right groin muscle. The injury limited him to two games since Aug, 16.
Guillermo Heredia has become the club’s full-time center fielder in Dyson’s absence, although Servais indicated rookie Jacob Hannemann could see action over the closing three weeks.
Dyson, 33, batted .251 this season with a .324 on-base percentage in 111 games. He also stole 28 bases in 35 attempts. He is a pending free agent.
***Another near cycle: Haniger went 3-for-4 and finished a triple shy of the cycle. On Saturday, he finished a double shy of the cycle in a victory over the Angels.
Overall, Haniger has multiple hits in seven of his last 11 games and is 22-for-45 in that span. His overall average is up to .278.
"Mitch is in a good spot right now," Servais said. "It’s kind of like what we saw in April, which is great to see. He’s got his confidence back. His swing is much shorter."
Haniger batted .342 in April before a strained right oblique muscle put him on the disabled list for nearly seven weeks.
***More from Moore: After delivering a quality start last week against Houston, Moore followed up with six impressive innings Monday in long relief. He gave up just one hit, a homer, while striking out seven and walking one.
By pitching Monday, Moore is lined up to serve as a piggyback starter Saturday in Houston when James Paxton returns to the rotation for the first time since Aug. 10.
Moore credited some mechanical adjustments for his improved performance.
"They got me a little more over the rubber," he said. "I was getting kind of long (in his delivery) to where my body was getting out in front, and my arm was (trailing) too long in back.
"It just wasn’t allowing my hand to get in front with the curveball and slider. So it was just tightening everything up. The last couple of times the changeup has been a lot more crisp. Now, the slider and curveball are starting to catch up."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners