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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 8:48 pm

Mariners still looking for big hits, fall to Bucs

By CURTIS CRABTREEAssociated Press

Mariners manager Eric Wedge is tired of seeing 41-year-old Raul Ibanez get the only big hits for Seattle.

Ibanez homered for the fourth time in four games, but Seattle missed a couple of late chances and lost to Pittsburgh 4-2 Wednesday. The Pirates won their season-high sixth in a row.

With the score 2-all, Seattle put two runners on with one out in the eighth inning. Reliever Vin Mazzaro (4-2) struck out Justin Smoak and got Michael Saunders to fly out to end the threat.

Pittsburgh scored twice in the ninth off relievers Charlie Furbush (1-4) and Yoervis Medina to pick up the victory. Jordy Mercer singled home the go-ahead run.

"We've got to hit. It's time to hit," Wedge said. "You're not going to win games unless you hit. They got the two-out hit. We didn't. Game over. That's the difference."

Struggles at the plate have been a constant theme for the Mariners long before Wedge took over in 2011. Now in his third season as Mariners' manager, Wedge is fed up with the lack of offensive output.

"I'm tired of talking about approach, mechanics or whatever," Wedge said. "You've got to hit. We can break it down 10 times and 10 times again. We've been doing that for 2 1/2 years. There were reasons the first year and reasons last year. This year we've had a couple injuries. Outside of that there are no reasons.

"Injuries are big - don't get me wrong - but you can't use them as excuses. You've got to go out and hit. If you're playing, you're here, you've got to hit. Otherwise you're not going to win ballgames," he said.

Mark Melancon earned his second save of the season. Mike Zunino delivered a pinch-hit single and Nick Franklin singled to put a pair of runners on with two outs in the ninth, but Kyle Seager grounded out.

Felix Hernandez bounced back to form after his worst start of the season. He blew a seven-run lead against the Los Angeles Angels in his last appearance, but struck out 11 against the Pirates. His only blemish of the afternoon came when Neil Walker hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

"I had pretty good command on my fastball and the breaking ball was a little better," Hernandez said.

Hernandez gave up six hits and walked two over seven innings.

"You've just got to battle him. You've got to battle him and try and get his pitch count up and stay in the game so you can get him out before it's the ninth inning," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We were able to do that. He's always going to be tough. He competes very, very well out there and the sequence and the stuff he has makes it a very difficult day at the plate."

Seattle managed to get a run back in the bottom of the fourth without a hit. Ibanez reached first after swinging at a third strike wild pitch that got away from catcher Russell Martin, then Smoak hit a grounder and Mercer mishandled the throw to second, the ball deflecting off the shortstop's glove.

Ibanez took advantage of the Pirates' defensive shift and advanced to a vacated third base on the misplay. A sacrifice fly from Saunders made it 2-1.

Jeanmar Gomez turned in a fine outing for the Pirates in his first start off the disabled list. He allowed just three hits and an unearned run in five innings with five strikeouts and threw the most pitches (81) of any outing this season.

NOTES: Ibanez has just 12 hits against left-handed pitchers this season but six of the hits have been home runs. He is batting .214 with six home runs and 12 RBIs against lefties. ... Ibanez hit his team leading 18th home run, including nine in June.