Nothing offensive about Mariners
A much-awaited homestand that started with so much promise ended with a disappointing thud Sunday.
It seems like weeks ago that the Seattle Mariners returned to Safeco Field fresh from a three-game road sweep of the Colorado Rockies and subsequently took two out of three from one of the best teams in baseball in the Texas Rangers.
But really, all that success was just four days ago.
And over those four days, the Mariners dropped four games to the Los Angeles Angels, including Sunday’s 4-2 loss to wrap up the homestand. The result dropped the Mariners’ to 21-29 and left them 10 games behind first-place Texas in the American League West.
“Everybody walked out of here feeling pretty good three days ago,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said before the game.
The Mariners weren’t feeling good when they walked out of Safeco on Sunday. It wasn’t just the four consecutive losses, but how they lost those four games.
Seattle was shut out by Dan Haren on Thursday, suffered through a Brandon League meltdown Friday, watched their ace Felix Hernandez get lit up Saturday and then managed minimal run support for Hector Noesi against C.J. Wilson on Sunday.
“It’s never fun to lose,” first baseman Justin Smoak said. “We’ve had a tough stretch here of late, but if we get out on the road and relax a little bit, we will win some ballgames.”
That nine-game, 10-day road trip starts with a visit to Arlington, Texas, to face a Rangers team that is on a three-game winning streak.
The Mariners had their chances to win Sunday.
They got another solid outing from Hector Noesi. The young right-hander threw eight innings for the second consecutive start and the third time this season, giving up three runs on five hits with two walks and no strikeouts.
Noesi has given the Mariners five quality starts (six innings pitched, three runs or fewer allowed) this season.
“A couple of two-strike pitches hurt him, but Hector pitched another great game,” Wedge said. “It’s been fun watching him progress. He’s consistently getting us deep in the ballgames and giving us opportunities to win.”
The specific two-strike pitches Wedge was speaking of were a pair of solo home runs that Noesi gave up on 0-2 counts.
But the first run Noesi allowed – on a line-drive RBI single from Kendrys Morales – was also on a two-strike pitch. On a 1-2 count to the Angels’ designated hitter in the first inning, Noesi left a change-up too high in the strike zone and Morales hit it into left field to open the scoring.
In the fourth inning facing Morales, Noesi got up 0-2. Instead of wasting a pitch, he hung a slider at Morales’ belt level. Morales launched it into right-center for a solo home run.
“I was trying to throw it at his back foot, but I hung it over the middle,” Noesi said.
The Mariners cut into the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Jesus Montero doubled to left-center and Smoak drove him in on a single to right off Angels starter Wilson. It was one of two hits in the game for Smoak, who is hitting .317 (19-for-60) over his past 15 games.
“I was impressed with Smoak today,” Wedge said. “He had some good swings, some good takes and lined up a couple balls the other way.”
But another 0-2 pitch hurt Noesi in the seventh inning. He threw a low change-up to Mark Trumbo that wasn’t low enough. Trumbo crushed the ball off the upper deck faade in left field.
“That was a good pitch, he just went down and got it,” Noesi said.
But it could have better, and that’s been a problem for Noesi, who has given up three doubles and two homers on 0-2 counts this season.
“It’s just finishing the pitch off and finishing the hitter off and being a little more aggressive when it needs to be down in the zone or out of the zone,” Wedge said.
But Noesi was far from the problem. The Mariners did little offensively against Wilson.
The left-hander pitched six innings, allowing the one run on two hits, while striking out five.
If not for a blister on his pitching hand, he might have gone longer.
“It was just a gradual thing that started to come on,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He pitched a great game. I think the blister affected his command as the game went on, but when he had to get some outs, he made some pitches.”
And few of those pitches were straight.
“I think the one straight pitch he threw me almost hit me, otherwise it was cutter, sinker, change-up, curveball,” Smoak said.
The Mariners were able to cut their deficit to 3-2 in the seventh when Wilson’s replacement – former closer Jordan Walden – walked Montero, who later scored on Walden’s second wild pitch of the inning.
But that was all the Mariners could muster.
Los Angeles added an insurance run in the ninth when Morales doubled to right off of Shawn Kelley and scored on Howie Kendrick’s sacrifice fly to right.
“We’ve got to do better offensively,” Wedge said. “It’s hard to win up here if you ask your pitchers to be perfect.”
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