Mulder throws zeros at M's in Oakland win

Ichiro went 2-5 (Getty Images)

The Mariners inability to hit with runners in scoring position came back to bite them again on Thursday, a day after they had seemed to get that monkey off their back with an impressive win over Barry Zito and the Athletics. Oakland won the game to earn a split in the short two-game series, and moved within four games of Seattle in the American League West.

Trade rumors have been swirling around the Seattle Mariners, as fans and pundits alike have become worried about the M's lack of offense. Those rumors were given a little more fuel after Thursday night's game, as the M's lost to the Oakland Athletics, 3-0.

Mark Mulder (13-7) held the Mariners in check throughout his time in the game, striking out 11 against one walk over seven innings of work. He scattered seven hits.

Ricardo Rincon and Keith Foulke pitched two innings of hitless relief to shut the door for the Athletics (57-44), bringing them within four games of the Mariners in the AL West.

Foulke collected his 25th save.

The lack of runs scored doesn't mean that the M's didn't have opportunities. In the fourth inning, Seattle (61-40) had runners on first and third with no outs, yet the trio of John Olerud, Mike Cameron, and Randy Winn were unable to get a run across the plate.

Again in the seventh, the Mariners had a golden opportunity to score, as Carlos Guillen came to bat with the bases loaded and two men out. However, a questionable called strike three ended the threat. Aside from the end of the rally, the disputed call also resulted in the ejection of hitting coach Lamar Johnson by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in the eighth inning for arguing.

Gil Meche (10-7) pitched brilliantly for the Mariners through six innings, but encountered some turbulence in the seventh. His control eluded him, and all three Oakland runs were charged to Meche in the seventh.

Jeff Nelson, Arthur Rhodes, and Aaron Taylor combined to throw over two scoreless innings of relief, although Nelson did let in two runs that were charged to Meche. After facing three batters in the eighth, Rhodes left with a sprained ankle. His status is day to day.

Thursday's struggles perpetuate a growing problem for the Mariners this season. Though their batting average with runners in scoring position is right near the top of the AL, it has taken a precipitous drop in the past month. The missed opportunities that have plagued the Mariners as of late have instigated a slew of possible trade ideas to be thrown about, all of them seeking to improve the M's recently anemic offense.

Third base and left field are considered areas where improvement is needed, but Randy Winn has come out of a month-long funk to play decently, and Jeff Cirillo's large contract almost entirely prevents a move for a third baseman. Brian Giles, J.D. Drew, Jeff Conine, and Aaron Boone have, supposedly, been drawing interest from Pat Gillick and the Mariners, though all such reports are unconfirmed.

The Mariners' performance Thursday night did nothing to stem the doubts that run rampant about the anemic offensive performances they've displayed in recent weeks. And unless the offense can suddenly turn it around, these trade rumors will continue to surround the team until the July 31st trade deadline.


Adam is a recent graduate from Timberline High in Lacey, Wash. who will be attending Western Washington University in the fall. He welcomes your feedback at krells@attbi.com.

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