- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is tired of making excuses for his offense.

He’s tired of giving credit to opposing pitchers when Seattle’s bats fall silent. He’s tired of explaining away the lack of offensive production.

Instead, McClendon turned the microscope on his hitters after a 4-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Seattle managed just four hits and an unearned run against Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel (6-2) didn’t walk a batter and struck out six. He went 8 2-3 innings in a victory over the Angels in his last start, the only thing keeping him from three straight complete games.

While Keuchel has been terrific recently for Houston, McClendon wasn’t going to let his players use that as an excuse for their lack of production.

“I saw average stuff,” McClendon said of Keuchel. “We didn’t swing the bats very good. At some point you’ve got to stop giving credit to average pitchers. That becomes a broken record. At some point we’ve got to start swinging the bats.”

Keuchel’s statistics of late certainly look better than average. He’s earned four victories, thrown two complete games, walked just one batter and struck out 28 in his last four starts. He’s allowed just four earned runs with a 1.08 ERA over that span.

“You look at the stretch he’s been on, he’s arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball right now,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “The way he’s been throwing the ball the last month or so has been pretty impressive.”

Nevertheless, McClendon pointed his ire at his own players for not being able to deliver offensively.

“It had nothing to do with approach,” McClendon said. “We had four hits. You don’t win games with four hits and one run.”

Seattle took the early lead with a two-out rally in the second inning. Mike Zunino and Michael Saunders each singled to put runners on first and second. Cole Gillespie followed with a dribbler off the end of the bat up the third-base line. Keuchel fielded the ball and threw wide of first base down the right-field line as Zunino scored.

Keuchel retired the next 14 batters he faced and faced the minimum 22 batters after Gillespie’s single in the second.

“He was doing a good job keeping the ball down in the zone, keeping us off balance and working down in the zone,” Zunino said. “That is what his strength is and he did it today.”

Meanwhile, the Astros finally broke through in the sixth inning. Jose Altuve singled and George Springer followed with a two-run blast off Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1) to left field to give Houston a 2-1 lead. It was Springer’s fourth home run in his last three games played and seventh home run this month.

Marc Krauss added a two-run home run off Iwakuma in the seventh inning to extend the lead to 4-1, matching the most runs Iwakuma allowed this season.

The nine hits allowed by Iwakuma were also a season high.

Notes: Houston optioned OF L.J. Hoes to Triple-A Oklahoma City following the game and recalled OF Robbie Grossman. Grossman is expected to return to the lineup as the team’s every day left fielder. … Houston C Carlos Corporan was the only Astros batter that failed to get a hit. … Mariners OF James Jones had his streak of hits in his first 15 starts and last 14 straight games ended with a 0-for-4 performance. … Seattle 2B Robinson Cano’s streak of reaching base in a career-high 31 straight games also ended with a 0-for-4 day. … McClendon didn’t rule out the possibility of LHP James Paxton rejoining the starting rotation following a rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday night. Paxton allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts in a 62-pitch outing. Paxton has been on the disabled list since April 9 with a strained left latissimus dorsi muscle.

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