SEATTLE — If Wade Miley was pitching Tuesday to hold onto his spot in the Mariners’ rotation, as seems likely, a final grade is tough to assess.
There was much to like from Miley through six innings before he stumbled in the seventh in a 6-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field.
Miley’s final line showed three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. Pretty similar to what the Mariners got Monday from Wade LeBlanc: three runs and nine hits in seven innings.
"I definitely felt a lot more comfortable," Miley said. "I felt I had more rhythm. Really, two mistakes. Both of them got hit into the seats. Two hanging curveballs. I’ve just got to get those pitches down.
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"But for the most part, I felt I threw the ball well."
The only real difference between Miley and LeBlanc is the Mariners, on Monday, found some late magic by scoring four runs in ninth inning for a comeback victory. There no comeback on Tuesday.
Chicago starter Jose Quintana (8-8) didn’t dazzle like Chris Sale did Monday, but he held the Mariners to one run in six innings.
"We did (have some chances)," manager Scott Servais said. "They came with two outs. We needed that big two-out hit a couple of times tonight. He’s good. He moves the ball well around the plate, and his stuff is good."
The White Sox’s bullpen backed up Quintana over three innings in a way that closer David Robertson couldn’t do for one inning Monday behind Sale; it protected the lead.
Todd Frazier’s two-run homer in a three-run ninth against a still-struggling Joaquin Benoit served as the knockout punch.
The loss dropped the Mariners back to .500 at 47-47. Miley lost his fifth straight decision and fell to 6-7 with a 5.36 ERA.
"I thought there were a lot of positive things to see out of Wade," Servais said. "I thought his stuff was much crisper. I definitely thought it was step in the right direction."
Servais previously indicated the Mariners will shift temporarily to a four-man rotation because they have three open dates in a span of eight days after Wednesday’s series finale against the White Sox.
Miley, LeBlanc and Mike Montgomery appear to be battling for that fourth spot behind Hernandez, James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma.
That competition effectively narrows to who gets the final spot, period, in the rotation because right-hander Taijuan Walker appears poised to return from the disabled list by the time the rotation returns to five starters.
As for Tuesday, the Mariners had just squandered a pair of two-out chances to take the lead when Miley started the seventh inning by yielding a tie-breaking homer to Melky Cabrera on a full-count curve.
Cabrera pulled the ball 370 feet on a line over the left-field wall for a 2-1 lead. Miley then gave up a single and a one-out walk before the Mariners went to the bullpen for Tom Wilhelmsen.
J.B. Shuck lined an RBI single into center that made it 3-1, which is the margin that Quintana handed to the White Sox’s bullpen. Zach Duke, Neal Jones and Carson Fulmer closed out the victory with little drama.
The two clubs exchanged early homers.
Brett Lawrie jumped a curve-on-a-tee from Miley for a two-out blast in the second inning that gave Chicago a 1-0 lead. It was Lawrie’s 12th homer of the year but first since June 29.
The Mariners got even on Robinson Cano’s one-out drive in the fourth inning. Cano turned on a first-pitch curve on the inner half for his 22nd homer of the season.
That was it, though. The Mariners got nothing else.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Third baseman Kyle Seager ranged to the wall in foul ground beyond the Chicago dugout for a reach-in catch on Todd Frazier’s leadoff pop in the fifth inning.
The fans get an assist; they got out of the way to keep a tough catch from becoming even tougher.
PLUS: Nelson Cruz had three of the Mariners’ six hits and raised his average to .284…left fielder Daniel Robertson went two-for-three…Robinson Cano’s homer was his 22nd of the season, which is already his best total since signing with the Mariners. He had 14 in 2014 and 21 in 2015. His career high is 33 in 2012 while playing for the New York Yankees.
MINUS: Veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit gave up three runs in two-third of an inning. His ERA is up to 5.40, and it’s all but official that he’s relinquished his job as the bullpen’s primary set-up man…right fielder Franklin Gutierrez was slow to cut off a sliding drive by Dioner Navarro in the ninth inning. What should have been a single turned into an RBI double.
STAT PACK: Rookie reliever Edwin Diaz struck out the side in the eighth inning. That makes 39 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings — or 17.85 per nine innings.
QUOTABLE: Reliever Joaquin Benoit offered no excuses for this latest poor outing: "When bad days come, you have to be a man and accept them. I’m struggling, and it’s not a secret."
Even so, Benoit insisted he’s healthy and merely needs to make some mechanical adjustments to recapture his form.
"Right now, I probably feel the best I’ve felt all year," he said. "It’s not that I’m hurting or anything like that.
"As a pitcher, you’re going to miss spots. Right now, I’m trying to figure out where my landing foot has to go. Right now, I’m staying too straight. I need to go forward, farther out."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners made no announcement late Tuesday regarding roster moves, but reliever David Rollins, outfielder Daniel Robertson and catcher Jesus Sucre met with manager Scott Servais.
It seems likely — though not confirmed — that all three are being optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners must clear one space on their 25-man roster in order to activate Felix Hernandez from the disabled list.
Catcher Mike Zunino and outfielders Nori Aoki and Guillermo Heredia are among the possible recall possibilities. An official announcement is expected early Wednesday.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners