Taijuan Walker’s return Tuesday to the Mariners’ rotation mirrored his season. There were tantalizing moments of promise that faded into disappointment. And a 5-1 loss to New York Yankees.
Walker permitted just one hit through four innings, although that hit cost him a run, but he started the fifth by yielding a line-drive double to Ronald Torreyes.
Then came a two-run homer by Jacoby Ellsbury, whom Walker had struck out in two previous at-bats. The Yankees had a 3-1 lead, added another run in the sixth inning, and that was it.
"I just made one mistake," Walker said. "The home run by Ellsbury. I thought my fastball command was really good the whole game. I just left one over the middle of the plate.
"I thought all of my pitches were working really well. My off-speed, I thought was good."
Manager Scott Servais agreed — up to a point.
"I thought his stuff was OK," Servais said. "He hung in there and competed. He made a few mistakes. Obviously, the two-run homer to Ellsbury. And the last run; (Mark) Teixeira gets the ball down the line (for a double)."
The key part in that quote was Servais saw a better competitive effort from Walker than in some previous games. That was lacking at times in the past, the Mariners believed, and led to Walker’s demotion.
"His effort was good," Servais reiterated. "It’s just his command on the edges with the fastball was not what he needed tonight."
Especially on a night when New York veteran lefty CC Sabathia (8-10) delivered a turn-back-the-clock effort in limiting the Mariners to one run and three hits in seven innings.
"It’s the same guy," said second baseman Robinson Cano, who had two of the Mariners’ four hits. "Nasty slider. Two-seamer. Velocity of 93-94 (mph). The same guy I know.
"He’s really tough, especially when he can hit his spots. He’s got a slow slider. It looks like it’s going to hit you, and then it’s right down the middle."
Tommy Layne and Dellin Betances followed Sabathia; each pitched a scoreless inning and closing out the victory.
So it wasn’t just Walker. A punchless attack gets a portion of the blame. So, too, does a defense that coughed up two unearned runs.
"We got beat," Servais said. "That happens. I don’t think we gave the game away."
The combination resulted in a loss that dropped the Mariners to two games behind Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth with 37 games remaining.
The Mariners recalled Walker (4-8) earlier Tuesday from Triple-A Tacoma, where he had served a two-start remedial tour after a disappointing Aug. 6 effort against the Angels.
So this was an opportunity. Walker gave up four runs (three earned) in 5 2/3 innings. Not awful. Just not what he wanted or the Mariners needed.
The game’s first run scored after two-out error by third baseman Kyle Seager in the second inning. Walker then walked Aaron Hicks before Torreyes yanked an RBI double to left.
Walker limited the damage to one run by striking out Jacoby Ellsbury with runners at second and third.
Sabathia retired the first seven Mariners before Leonys Martin flicked a drive into the right-field corner that bounced away from Aaron Judge for a one-out triple in the third inning.
Ketel Marte sent a broken-bat grounder up the middle through a shortened infield for an RBI single, which tied the game at 1-1. The Mariners got nothing more.
Walker had allowed only the one hit before Torreyes opened the fifth with a near-identical double to left. Ellsbury then followed by driving a 94-mph fastball over the right-field wall for a two-run homer.
The Yankees boosted their lead to 4-1 in the sixth after Teixeira’s leadoff double. He went to third on a grounder and scored on Judge’s sacrifice fly.
New York’s final run came against Wade LeBlanc in the ninth inning after left fielder Guillermo Heredia turned Ellsbury’s leadoff liner into a two-base error. Didi Gregorius followed with an RBI double.
PLAY OF THE GAME: New York leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury struck out in his first two at-bats against Mariners starter Taijuan Walker. On his third chance, Ellsbury struck back.
His two-run homer in the fifth inning broke a 1-1 tie.
PLUS: Robinson Cano went 2-for-4 and is 21-for-67 (313) in 17 career games against his former club…Mike Zunino walked in the fifth inning, which extended his career-best streak of reaching base at least once to 19 games…reliever Tony Zych worked around two singles in pitching a scoreless seventh inning. It was his first appearance since May 1.
MINUS: Third baseman Kyle Seager committed his 16th error, which matched his total from last season (in 160 games). He had just eight errors in 2014 when he won a Gold Glove for defensive excellence…left fielder Guillermo Heredia simply whiffed on a catchable line drive by Jacoby Ellsbury in the ninth inning. The result was a two-base error that led to New York’s final run…Nelson Cruz was hitless in four at-bats with three strikeouts.
STAT PACK: The Yankees have won 15 of their last 19 games at Safeco Field.
QUOTABLE: Lefty Wade LeBlanc pitched the final two innings, which manager Scott Servais indicated "could" mean he’ll be shifting from the rotation to the bullpen.
"He’s filling a role there as a long guy," Servais said. "It does give our (other) guys a chance to regroup down there."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners