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Ramirez's road struggles continue

Ramirez's road struggles continue

ARLINGTON -- An entire four-game series might have been affected during the first inning Monday night, when the Mariners scored two runs and had the bases loaded with none out against the Rangers.

Texas starter Kevin Millwood was backed against the ropes, and the Mariners were poised to deliver enough damage that Rangers relievers would be needed early in the game -- the last thing either manager wanted to happen with a doubleheader scheduled for Tuesday and a single game on Wednesday.

But faster than the budding rally started, it ended.

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Richie Sexson struck out for the 71st time this season, and catcher Kenji Johjima grounded into a double play.

The sudden turn of events deprived the Mariners of some additional runs that would have come in handy later on, when not even Sexson's three-run home run in the ninth inning -- ending a personal 62 at-bat home run drought -- could rescue Seattle from a five-run deficit as they dropped an 8-7 decision in front of 20,504 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The Mariners (54-42) lost their third straight.

"The way the game ended, one more run in the first inning would have made a big difference," designated hitter Jose Vidro said. "We should have come out of that first inning with a lot more room, but it didn't happen."

The two-run lead stood for two innings.

Left-hander Horacio Ramirez surrendered three runs in the third inning, and after the Mariners pulled even in the fourth on Vidro's run-scoring single -- the second of his four hits -- Ramirez was rocked for five runs in the fifth.

Ramirez added his name to the Sammy Sosa home run victim list with a "horrible, horrible pitch" that became Sammy's 603rd career home run -- a line drive into the left-field bleachers that also scored Kenny Lofton and Michael Young, giving Texas a three-run lead.

Ramirez becomes the 366th Major League pitcher to serve up a home run pitch to Sosa.

As though that weren't bad enough, Brad Wilkerson delivered the KO punch on Ramirez with a two-run blast over the wall in left-center in the same inning.

And so, the tale of two Horacios continues.

Ramirez is now 0-3 on the road, with a 13.72 ERA, compared to a 5-0 record and 2.27 ERA in five starts at Safeco Field.

Go figure.

"We have talked about this, and I don't know what to say," manager John McLaren said. "He is comfortable at home, and I don't know if it's the big park, cold air or the Seattle coffee he has each morning. Something makes him click at home, and we need to find out because we need this guy to win on the road for us."

Ramirez insists the home-road difference is "nothing more than a coincidence."

McLaren said he thought Ramirez "Threw OK at times, and his velocity was pretty good. But he made two bad pitches in that [fifth] inning and it was five runs."

Left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith replaced Ramirez and gave the Mariners 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, striking out three and surrendering one hit.

Even so, he was returned to Triple-A Tacoma after the game to create a spot on the 25-man roster for lefty Ryan Feierabend, who will start the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader -- a makeup of the April 23 game that was rained out.

Seattle's bullpen is in terrific shape for the twin bill.

Texas, on the other hand, could be a bit short-handed, because manager Ron Washington had to use three relievers after pulling Millwood in the sixth inning.

Millwood was fortunate to make it that far.

"We've had a couple of times when we've had a chance to really put the hammer on the starting pitcher and get him out of the game and haven't been able to do it," McLaren said. "We need to do this. We've got to do this.

"If we get Millwood out of the game at that point, or close to it, we go in their bullpen and it sets us up for the rest of the series. On top of that, we get four or five runs. But double plays have bit us a few times lately. We need to do better."

The first inning ended with a double play, and the game ended with a double play.

Seattle welcomed right-handed reliever Eric Gagne into the game with four consecutive hits, including Sexson's 16th home run of the season. With the tying run on base via Kenji Johjima's single -- he became the last starter to have a hit in the game and was replaced by pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist -- second baseman Jose Lopez bunted (on his own) foul and then grounded into a forceout.

Ben Broussard, batting for Yuniesky Betancourt, drove a line drive to right field -- but right at Marlon Byrd. Lopez, thinking the ball would land safely, went too far and was doubled off first base to end the game.

"I just wanted to keep the rally going," Broussard said. "I hit the ball hard and thought it would get over his head. But it didn't work out."

If there was a silver lining attached to the loss -- other than the fact the first-place Angels lost to the Athletics and remained two games ahead of the Mariners -- it came in the form of offense, especially Sexson's final at-bat.

"We'll take it," McLaren said. "If he can build on it from here, let's go. I've had some good talks with him on this, and he's fighting his way through it. We have all the confidence in the world in Richie, and let's hope this is the one that gets him going."

The Mariners lugged a 22-inning scoreless drought into the four-game series opener, a streak that started in the sixth inning Friday night in Toronto. Back-to-back shutouts in the second and third games of the series extended the streak to the longest in more than a year.

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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