The Mariners (36-42) might be a playoff team, instead of division dud, if they played punchless San Diego as many times as members of the AL West. Following a 5-0 result Tuesday, Seattle followed Wednesday with a 7-0 romp at Petco Park. Taijuan Walker won his fifth consecutive start and Robinson Cano had four hits and three RBIs (box score) as the Mariners recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since June 8-9, 2014 at Tampa Bay.
Walker didn’t allow a base runner until the fourth when he plunked catcher Derek Norris, but had to wait until the sixth to get run support. Cano hit an opposite-field home run off San Diego starter James Shields for the only run Walker would need. The Mariners got six more, including four in the ninth, highlighted by Nelson Cruz’s 20th long ball.
In his best offensive day of the season, as well as his best as a Mariner, Cano went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored. It marked his first game for Seattle with three hits and four RBIs.
Celebrating his 35th birthday, Cruz went 2-for-5. He is the first Mariner with 20 homers before the All-Star break since since Raul Ibanez (24) in 2013.
The Mariners had as many home runs in the two-game series (four) as the Padres had hits. Two great scoring opportunities were wasted in the fourth, failing to tally with runners on second and third and no outs, and again with the bases loaded and one out. Seattle went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven.
Following up Mike Montgomery’s one-hit shutout Tuesday, Walker breezed through six innings without incident. He allowed one hit, struck out seven and didn’t issue a walk, his ERA falling to 4.34 after it floated above 6.00 for the first month and a half. Walker has gone 107 consecutive batters without a walk. McClendon pulled him after 76 pitches out of an abundance of caution.
Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless eighth and Tom Wilhelmsen a scoreless ninth, three days after delivering a walk-off wild pitch against the L.A. Angels.
“I’m glad I came out today and could contribute. We all go through difficult times. I wish I could go out there every day and get four hits, but I’m just going to stay positive” — Cano
“I wanted to stay in there. I felt like I had gotten into a groove. It was frustrating to come out” — Walker
“There’s a lot of things that went into pulling him. No. 1, this is a young pitcher going deep in games. We have to protect him and his innings. He may not like it, but 12 years from now when he’s still pitching, he’ll thank me. Taijuan Walker was great today and he probably didn’t deserve to come out. He’s probably ticked off, but it is what it is” — manager Lloyd McClendon on pulling Walker.
The Mariners are 9-13-4 in series played after the sweep and 5-6 in interleague games . . . McClendon declined to speculate on what will happen with Hisashi Iwakuma due back with the Mariners this weekend. Iwakuma has completed three rehab starts and, under normal rotation conditions, would start for Seattle Sunday in Oakland. However, James Montgomery is slated to start that day and has been sensational with a 1.62 ERA in six starts and a one-hitter in his last one. McClendon and GM Jack Zduriencik could option Roenis Elias to Tacoma, switch J.A. Happ to the bullpen or go with a six-man rotation. McClendon will announce the decision soon.
The Mariners begin a four-game series at Oakland at 7:05 p.m. Thursday in what amounts to a weekend battle to avoid last place in the AL West. Elias (4-5, 4.25) will throw opposite LHP Scott Kazmir (4-5, 2.79).