A first-inning wild pitch by Mariners rookie starter Taijuan Walker, which scored Conor Gillaspie from third, stood up in a 1-0 loss to the White Sox in Chicago. Seattle came into the Sunday matinee looking for a fifth consecutive series win to go with a season-high 10 games over .500, but instead allowed former Mariner Hector Noesi to shut them out over nearly seven innings.
For all of their recent success, the Mariners often leave a lot to be desired in their approach at the plate. Yes, they faced two of the American League ERA leaders in the first pair of games in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but still had a meager .526 OPS over the entire series.
The Seattle hitters let Noesi get the better of them by chasing changeups and fastballs out of the zone for the better part of his 6.2 innings. In his last start, the 27-year-old Dominican gave up five runs on three hits and seven walks to the Angels over five innings.
It was a much different story Sunday. Through the first six innings, Seattle (48-40) had men on base against Noesi only to go 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-11 with RISP.
In the seventh, the Mariners loaded the bases with back-to-back singles by Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller, followed by a walk to Michael Saunders. But with two outs, Robinson Cano flied out to center, ending the M’s best opportunity.
Noesi (3-6, 4.90 ERA) held the Mariners to five hits and two walks while striking out five. He picked up his third win in a season in which he has bounced from Seattle to Texas to Chicago.
In his second start, Walker showed the rust that accompanies a mere 46 combined innings for his season. The 21-year-old prodigy had little command of a mid-90’s fastball and paid the price by with five walks and the fateful wild pitch over four innings. Walker (1-1, 3.60 ERA) allowed two hits and struck out three while throwing 83 pitches.
Ackley and Miller at the bottom of the order each batted 2-for-4. But it didn’t matter much with the 1-5 hitters batting a combined 1-for-16 with three walks.
The lone bright spot in the series was a bullpen that continues to be phenomenal. The group allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in 13 innings while striking out 14. Without a key two-out hit from Saunders Saturday, Seattle would be returning home having endured a sweep.
Instead, it returns home after a 4-2 road trip for a seven-game homestand against the Twins and Athletics before the All-Star break. The three-game series against Oakland will be critical for a team that is 6.5 games back of the A’s divisional lead.
The Mariners shuffled their rotation, pushing Felix Hernandez back one day from a scheduled Thursday start against the Twins to Friday to face the Athletics. Thursday’s starter isn’t known . . . CF James Jones received the day off with OF Endy Chavez starting in his place . . . Second base umpire Dana DeMuth left the game after colliding with White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham in the fifth inning. The game proceeded with three umpires.