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Maurer solid, but Mariners held scoreless

ARLINGTON -- Brandon Maurer pitched the best game of his young career on Saturday, but the rookie right-hander came up on the short end of a 5-0 loss to the Rangers as Seattle's offense continued its early struggles.

The 22-year-old Maurer gave up just two runs on two hits in 6 2/3 innings, but both were home runs to A.J. Pierzynski and David Murphy. The youngster issued three walks and struck out two in his 94-pitch outing.

"I hung a slider on the first one," Maurer said. "The second one I left a fastball up."

But on this night, that was all the Rangers needed, even though they tacked on three insurance runs in the eighth against relievers Charlie Furbush and Yoervis Medina.

"Maurer threw a good ballgame," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "I was really proud of him. Tough ballpark, tough club and he threw a great game. He was efficient, he got us deep in the ballgame. He only gave up one hit until that last homer. He just did a great job."

After two shaky starts to open his Major League career, Maurer has pitched well twice now against the Rangers. Though his record fell to 1-3, he's lowered his ERA from 16.20 to 7.45 with back-to-back quality starts.

But the Mariners have totaled just five runs in their last five games, going 1-4 in that span to fall to 7-12 on the season.

The Mariners' scoreless streak extended to 19 innings as they became the first opposing team ever to be shut out in consecutive games at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark since the stadium opened in 1994.

This time they were blanked by five Rangers pitchers, after starter Nick Tepesch was knocked out in the second inning by a Jesus Montero line drive off his right wrist.

"We're in one of those zones where if we do hit it hard, it's usually right at them," said Wedge. "They bunt a ball over the pitcher's head and get a hit. That's baseball.

"We're going through some tough times offensively right now, but you keep working, you keep doing what you need to be doing to get out of it. And when we come out of it, we'll come out of it big. We'll come back here tomorrow and try again."

After Tepesch was knocked out, former Mariners reliever Derek Lowe came on to pitch four hitless innings and Seattle didn't advance a runner past first until the sixth, when Joe Ortiz replaced Lowe and gave up a single and walk before retiring Michael Morse on a groundout.

The Mariners repeated that process in both the seventh and eighth innings, putting runners on first and second, but both died there. Seattle has advanced just one runner to third base in the past two games.

The Rangers made far more of their five hits in the game. Pierzynski got the first knock off Maurer with his home run with one out in the fourth, though the Rangers catcher received a little help from a fan who appeared to snag the ball just before it reached the glove of leaping center fielder Franklin Gutierrez.

Gutierrez had scaled the wall and was reaching over the fence, so no fan interference was in effect, since the ball was out of the field of play when the fan caught it.

"Guti said he probably would have had it, but there was somebody else out there that got it before him," said Wedge. "If it's over the fence, that's just whoever comes up with it, comes up with it. There's nothing else we can do about it. But it was potentially a great catch by him. I think he had a chance at it."

Maurer said he was surprised his center fielder even had a shot at it.

"I thought it was gone," Maurer said. "I thought he got a lot closer than he probably should have. That was a good play out there. He said he would have had it if that fan hadn't snagged it."

Maurer, who never pitched above Double-A ball until this season, then retired 10 straight batters before Murphy hit a 397-foot homer to right field with two outs in the seventh.

"Obviously, he's pitched well against us his last two starts," said Murphy. "I'm definitely impressed with his slider. He's young, he's only going to get better."

Third baseman Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to nine games with a 2-for-3 night, though he was robbed of a potential double in the third inning on a fully extended catch by Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin on a deep drive to the warning track.

"I thought I'd gotten it over his head and I'd have at least a double, depending on the way it kicked," said Seager, who already leads the Majors with nine doubles. "But he made a great play on it."

After a sluggish start, Seager is 11-for-33 over the nine-game stretch to raise his average to .239. But nobody else has a hot hand offensively at the moment and the Mariners are looking for answers.

"Losing in general is disappointing," Seager said. "Not scoring any runs obviously is also. They threw the ball well again tonight. We knocked out the starter there in the second inning and the bullpen came in and did a great job. But Maurer threw a heck of a game today. He should get a lot of credit for that."

Indeed, holding the Rangers to two runs at their park is a worthy feat. It just wasn't worth a win on this night.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
Read More: Seattle Mariners, Brandon Maurer, Kyle Seager, Franklin Gutierrez