PHOENIX – There seems to be no happy medium for Hector Noesi.
The lanky right-handed starter can be effective, showing a fastball with life, solid breaking pitches and the ability to pitch deep into games.
But at other times, he can be inconsistent, leaving fastballs up in the zone, losing focus on 0-2 and 1-2 counts and seeming to lack the competitive mindset that his fellow starting pitchers have.
The Mariners saw both parts of Noesi on Monday. Unfortunately for Seattle, there was too much of the bad early in a 7-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks that featured a hitting cycle by Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill.
Noesi gave up four runs early and six runs total at Chase Field.
“He just didn’t come out as aggressive as he needed to be,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “They made him work and they made him pay for it.”
Hill was the second player to hit for the cycle this year.
Meanwhile, the Mariners’ offensive output in the hitter-friendly dry air of Arizona produced nine hits, but just the one run off Arizona starter Wade Miley, who worked seven innings.
“It was a hit here or a hit there,” Wedge said. “Their guy did a (good) job. He spread out the hits, but we were never in position to do any damage.”
The lone run came in the sixth when Casper Wells, who was starting in right field in place of Ichiro Suzuki, doubled home Kyle Seager from first base. Wells was later thrown out at home trying to score on Dustin Ackley’s single to left. Wells and Seager had two hits each.
Still, the onus fell on Noesi, who wasn’t sharp early. It was evident when he gave up three consecutive singles to start the game. The last two came on 0-2 counts.
The third hit, a sharp single to left by Justin Upton on a slider, allowed Willie Bloomquist to score from second base.
The former Mariners utility player needed to revert to South Kitsap football days to knock down Seattle catcher Jesus Montero to jar the ball loose. The play allowed the runners to move up a base.
“He just wasn’t aggressive with it,” Wedge said of the 0-2 pitch by Noesi. “It was down and away, but it didn’t have the same bite that he normally has when he finishes his pitches. Good hitters are able to slow themselves down and hook it.”
Noesi knows he’s making the same mistakes when he’s ahead in counts.
“I tried to put it in the dirt,” he said.
But Noesi didn’t to Upton or to a handful of other hitters, and it cost him and the Mariners (29-40).
“I have to stop doing that,” he said. “I have to be consistent.”
A pair of sacrifice flies – both hard-hit balls – from Jason Kubel and Paul Goldschmidt pushed the lead to 3-0 after the first inning.
Noesi was in trouble in the second inning, giving up a double to pitcher Miley on a fastball right down the middle. Miley helped Noesi out by trying to advance to third after Michael Saunders bobbled the ball. Saunders easily threw out Miley.
Hill led off the third with a triple and scored on Upton’s sacrifice fly to right field.
Down 4-0, Noesi showed a hint of his potential. In the fourth inning, he struck out the side.
“He got better as the game wore on,” Wedge said. “He got better with two strikes, but he has to have that in his back pocket. He has to be more aggressive and he has to do it from the very first pitch of the very first inning.”
In the sixth, pitches up in the zone led to two more runs on a sacrifice fly from Miguel Montero – the Diamondbacks’ fourth of the game – and a RBI single from Josh Bell.
Wedge had relievers up and ready in the fifth and early in the sixth, but chose to leave Noesi in the game.
“That’s why I wanted to leave him in there and have him try to get through the inning late,” Wedge said. “Those are what I like to call character outs. Finish this off. Get through this inning dig deep and find something.”
Arizona pounded 11 hits off Mariners pitching.
Hill wowed the crowd of 24,284 by becoming the fifth Diamondbacks player to hit for the cycle. He had the single in the first, the triple in the third and the double in fifth off Noesi. In the seventh, he crushed a pitch off Shawn Kelley for a solo homer.
The last time the Mariners allowed a cycle was Sept. 29, 2001, to Miguel Tejada of the Oakland A’s.
The other player to hit for the cycle this season was Scott Hairston of the Mets on April 27 against Colorado.
For all of Wedge’s frustrations with Noesi, he thinks the 25-year-old has the tools but needs to find the focus.
“When it comes to being a big league starter – and this is a guy we feel like can be that for a long time once he gets more consistency – you have to bring it 30 to 35 times (each season),” Wedge firstname.lastname@example.org