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Michael Saunders homers, but Mariner bats quiet again in 4-3 loss to Twins

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MINNEAPOLIS - A four-game losing streak and a slumping offence isn't worrying Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.

Seattle's offence couldn't bail out rookie starter Roenis Elias on Saturday night.

Elias (3-3) tied his career high with seven innings against the Minnesota Twins, but was undone by one swing in a 4-3 loss.

Brian Dozier's three-run homer in the fifth inning proved to be all the Twins would need with the Mariners' offence unable to complement its pitching. Seattle has scored eight runs in losing its past four games.

"We'll figure it out," said McClendon, in his first year as Mariners manager. "It's a little tough right now. One thing I pointed out right from the start, winning games at this level is tough. One thing here and one thing there will cause you to lose. We'll figure this offence out and we'll be OK."

Michael Saunders hit his second home run of the season and drove in two runs. But Seattle would only muster two hits and two walks against Minnesota starter Sam Deduno (1-2).

The Mariners have scored the fifth-fewest runs in the American League, but entered Saturday with the fourth-best team ERA (3.60). Seattle has been held to one run or less four times in the past nine games, going 3-6 over that span.

"I feel like everybody's on the verge of contributing like how we should be doing," outfielder James Jones said. "But all we could do is keep working hard, keep grinding and stay confident out there."

Jones tripled in the third inning to drive in Seattle's other run and has a hit in all nine of his starts to begin his major league career.

Elias has been a pleasant surprise in the Mariners' rotation in his first major-league season.

The left-hander allowed six hits and one walk. He lost a bit of control at times. He hit a batter, and had a wild pitch and a balk in the second inning. After allowing Dozier's homer, he retired the final eight batters he faced.

"Really, it wasn't a mistake," McClendon said. "It was a pretty darn good pitch that the guy hit out. That's baseball. Hats off to Dozier, because he hit a pretty good pitch."

Elias has used a devastating curveball to tally the fourth-most strikeouts by a rookie pitcher in baseball this year, but he went more with his fastball against the Twins.

Ultimately, it was the curve that Dozier hit into the first row in left field for his 11th home run, which is tied for third in the AL.

"You throw a ball and it felt like it was neck level and he hits it out and stays on top," Seattle catcher Mike Zunino said. "The next night you throw one down and he was able to drop the head and elevate it. So, sometimes when guys are seeing the ball well, you've got to tip your cap to them."

Deduno (1-2) struck out four, allowed two hits and retired 18 of the 23 batters he faced.

NOTES: McClendon decided to skip RHP Brandon Maurer's turn in the rotation for Seattle's upcoming two-game series at Texas. Maurer (1-2) has a 6.00 ERA. ... LHP James Paxton (strained back) threw a two-inning simulated game Saturday, and Tijuan Walker (shoulder) threw a bullpen session. Both players may throw more simulated games in Texas. ... Minnesota goes for the series sweep on Sunday when RHP Ricky Nolasco (2-3) faces Mariners RHP Felix Hernandez (4-1) who is 6-5 in 15 career starts versus the Twins.

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