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LAA@SEA: Saunders launches a two-run homer to right

SEATTLE -- Michael Saunders drove in three runs and hit a two-run homer, but the Mariners again couldn't overcome an erratic performance from starting pitcher Brandon Maurer, as they fell, 7-5 to the Angels on Thursday night at Safeco Field.

Trailing 7-3 with one out and a runner on in the ninth inning, Kyle Seager made it interesting with a two-run homer of his own, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought on closer Ernesto Frieri, who then retired Stefen Romero and Dustin Ackley to end a night in which the Mariners were playing from behind from the first inning on.

"You never want to get down by that. ... Unfortunately we weren't quite able to get out of it," Seager said.

Maurer gave up five runs and six hits in four innings en route to his fourth consecutive loss. The 23-year-old walked four, struck out two and failed to post a 1-2-3 frame, but afterward seemed encouraged after falling to 1-4 with a 7.52 ERA since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on April 20.

"Mentally, I thought today was the best that I've felt. ... I felt calm. There wasn't as much anxiety as normal," he said. "My heart rate stayed down pretty well."

Maurer had a closed door meeting with manager Lloyd McClendon and pitching coach Rick Waits after his last outing, prompting discussion that his temporary rotation spot, which he assumed because of injuries to Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez's demotion, might be in jeopardy before one of the regular starters returned from the disabled list.

Maurer's performance Thursday did nothing to quell the speculation. Afterward, McClendon was asked if the Newport Beach, Calif., native will remain a starter.

"I agree that he has struggled," McClendon said. "When you look at options you have to sit down and make sure you have a viable option. That's something [general manager] Jack [Zduriencik] and I will talk about and see where we go from here, and see if there is something we can do to get him straightened out."

Maurer put the Mariners in a 5-0 hole by the fourth inning on a night they were without second baseman Robinson Cano, who was scratched a little more than two hours before first pitch because he wasn't feeling well.

Maurer started shaky in the first, yielding a walk to Kole Calhoun, then a single to Erick Aybar to put runners on first and third. Center fielder Mike Trout lofted a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 before the right-hander worked out of it by retiring David Freese and Howie Kendrick.

He escaped trouble again in the second and third, showing signs he might be capable of capturing his first win since May 4.

"I saw some things early on where this was going to be a pretty good night [for Maurer]," McClendon said.

But he unraveled in the fourth after Angels first baseman C.J. Cron ripped a one-out triple. He fanned catcher Hank Conger to notch the second out, but No. 9-hitting left fielder Grant Green made it 2-0 with an RBI single back through the middle.

After a walk to Calhoun, Aybar hit a three-run homer that staked the Angels a 5-0 lead and effectively ended Maurer's night after he recorded the final out of the inning.

"I just missed my spot," Maurer said of the homer.

Saunders answered with a two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning -- his third of the season -- off Angels starter Matt Shoemaker (3-1, 3.54 ERA) to cut the lead to 5-2, but Trout retorted in the sixth with an RBI single back through the middle to make it 6-2.

Brad Miller and James Jones started the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back singles before advancing into scoring position on Shoemaker's wild pitch. Then, Nick Franklin fanned for the third time in as many at-bats before Saunders drove in his third run and pulled the score to 6-3 with a sacrifice fly to the left-field warning track. Franklin, meanwhile, finished 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, dropping his batting average to .150.

Shoemaker left after 5 1/3 solid innings, allowing three runs on four hits with six strikeouts.

Angels' backup third baseman John McDonald added an RBI single in the top of the ninth to make it 7-3.

With the loss, the Mariners fell to 26-27 and settled for their second four-game split on a season-high, 11-game homestand. They finished the night with just six hits, though Jones went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored and Miller went 2-for-3 with a run.

"I see improvement," McClendon said of Miller, who raised his average to .161. "The only one way to go from here is up. He's starting to swing the bat a little bit."

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