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Happ's troubles add to Seattle's pitching woes

McClendon has few options to turn around rotation

MINNEAPOLIS -- For a Mariners team built largely on the back of its pitching staff, things have gone upside down the last week. While the offense has finally heated up, a once-reliable rotation has come unglued and J.A. Happ was the latest victim when the Twins pinned a 9-5 loss on Seattle in Thursday's series opener at Target Field.

Happ surrendered three home runs in the first two innings and wound up allowing nine hits and seven runs (six earned) over 3 1/3 as he fell to 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA.

Over the past six games, the Mariners rotation is 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA and Happ hasn't helped, totaling just five innings with 10 runs allowed in his past two starts.

"It was a beating," Happ said. "It seemed like whatever adjustment I tried to make, they were right on it. I made some mistakes over the plate and it cost me. Not a good time for that after the last few games we've had. I wanted to come out and put up some zeros and the offense did a good job tonight. It was just a brutal night."

Happ gave up a leadoff homer to Brian Dozier, then committed a throwing error to help add fuel to the fire in a five-run first that was capped by a three-run blast by Eddie Rosario. Aaron Hicks added a solo shot in the second and from there it was a matter of Happ trying to get as far as he could to help an overworked bullpen.

"That was what I was trying to do, get through some innings there," said Happ, who finally was pulled after 82 pitches. "It just seemed like it was a battle all night long. It didn't seem like they were fooled by a whole lot tonight."

Both Happ and the Mariners are searching for answers.

"Obviously when you don't have your command, you can point to mechanical issues, your arm not catching up with everything else and releasing high," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "But it was just a clunker. Just not a good day for him."

After starting the season 3-1 with a 2.98 ERA in his first seven starts, Happ has struggled to get back in that groove. He's 1-5 with a 6.81 ERA in his last nine outings, but McClendon said there aren't a lot of alternatives at this point.

"You have to have options that are reliable to run out there other than that guy," McClendon said. "Right now, we'll keep running him out there. We think he's a part of this and he'll be out there in five days."

James Paxton is likely out at least another month as he returns from a strained finger tendon. Roenis Elias has posted a 6.75 ERA in eight starts in Tacoma since being sent down, and the Mariners would like to see him perform better before bringing him back.

"That would certainly help quite a bit," McClendon said. "And we don't have Pax, so that's not an option. [Long reliever Vidal Nuno] has been so valuable in the role he's in, it would be awfully hard to take him out of there because I don't know who fills that."

So the Mariners will likely stick with Happ and hope he finds answers before his next outing Tuesday in Colorado.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Seattle Mariners, J.A. Happ