Thursday brought another battering for the Mariners’ rotation when Taijuan Walker failed to make it through four innings in a 10-8 victory over Colorado at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Walker gave up six runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings while laboring through 80 pitches. His outing came one day after right-hander Nathan Karns gave up nine runs and eight hits over 2 1/3 innings against Oakland.
“The one thing I can take from it,” Walker said, “is if they come out swinging at my fastball, I need to start mixing in my curveball early just to keep them off the fastball.
“You could see how much they were sitting on the fastball. They were pulling every single curveball foul or hitting it on the end of the bat.”
The Rockies got lots of good swings against Walker, but the Mariners were teeing off, too. They finished with 18 hits and benefited from five Colorado errors.
“The at-bats continue to be very good,” manager Scott Servais said. “Really, throughout spring training. The number of deep counts. Then guys finishing off at-bats. Our guys have a clear concept of what they’re doing.”
The bullpen was solid until lefty Mike Montgomery wobbled through a two-run ninth inning. In-between Walker and Montgomery, right-handers Donn Roach and Mayckol Guaipe combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Mariners (11-12-2) opened the scoring by cashing in Shawn O’Malley’s leadoff walk in the first inning. He scored from second on Nelson Cruz’s two-out RBI single.
The lead didn’t last.
Colorado (10-9-3) began its first inning with three straight doubles from Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez against Walker. That produced two runs.
Walker retired the next two batters, but DJ LeMahieu lined an RBI single into center for a 3-1 lead.
The Mariners answered with a three-run second inning, aided by three Colorado errors. Seth Smith drove in two runs with a two-out double off the center-field wall.
Again, Walker couldn’t hold it. The Rockies turned Dustin Garneau’s leadoff double in the second into the tying run.
The Mariners jumped on Yohan Flande for four runs in the fourth for a 8-4 lead. Daniel Robertson, O’Malley and Smith drove in the runs with successive hits after Chris Taylor’s leadoff walk.
But Walker gave two runs back in the fourth and failed to make it through the inning.
“Taijuan, not his best day,” Servais said. “But he hung in there, and we got his pitches in.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Smith was at second base after a two-run double in the second inning when Robinson Cano lined a two-out single into center field.
Smith chugged around third but got a late stop sign from third-base coach Manny Acta. The decision was correct. Just late. Smith likely would have been out at the plate.
When Smith eased his way back to third, Garneau snapped a throw to Nolan Arenado, who applied the tag for the out. Instead of second and third with Cruz coming up, the inning was over.
PLUS: Roach added another 2 1/3 scoreless innings to his bid to win a bullpen job. That makes 10 1/3 scoreless innings over his past four appearances. … Guaipe is also making a push. He has allowed just one run in 9 2/3 innings over his past six outings. … Smith, Cruz, Steve Clevenger, Austin Wilson and Rob Brantly had two-out RBI hits. … Smith went 2 for 4, and his spring average dropped to .548 (17 for 31).
MINUS: Cruz went to sleep while at second base with two outs in the first inning and became an easy pickoff victim for Colorado starter Tyler Chatwood. … Smith’s slow-stepping back to third, which resulted in an out in the second inning, would have drawn more attention in the regular season. … Montgomery didn’t walk anyone in the ninth but threw just 13 of his 26 pitches for strikes.
STAT PACK: The Mariners were 10 for 23 with runners in scoring position.
QUOTABLE: “Eighty pitches in three(-plus) innings,” Mariners starter Taijuan Walker said. “That’s a lot of pitches. It definitely wears on you. I was starting to get a little tired and was starting to leave balls up.
“Just forget about this one.”
SHORT HOPS: Shortstop Ketel Marte was scratched prior to the game because of the flu. The Mariners adjusted by moving Taylor from third base to shortstop and inserting O’Malley as the third baseman. … While the Mariners used the designated hitter, the Rockies had their pitchers bat. … The attendance of 11,365 was a sellout.
UP NEXT: Right-hander Felix Hernandez makes his third spring start when the Mariners play the Chicago White Sox at 1:10 p.m. Friday at Peoria Stadium.
Hernandez is slotted for five to six innings in his next-to-last start before opening day. The White Sox list lefty Jose Quintana as their starter. The game can be seen on Root Sports.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners