Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon smirked. He was about to say something he had said many times before, and he was about to say it because he had watched something that had happened many times before.
“We struggled to score runs today?” McClendon said, throwing the question back and laughing. “Listen, I’ve said it all along: We’re a club that’s challenged offensively.”
Further proof came in the form of a 3-2 defeat Thursday against the New York Mets in front of 36,224 people at Safeco Field. Mets starter Bartolo Colon was perfect for 62/3 innings against the Mariners before Robinson Cano singled in the seventh.
The Mariners have lost five of their past seven games and eight of their past 12.
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“The last thing we can do is hang our head and start worrying about it,” Cano said. “We just have to turn the page and just move on.”
The story for most of the day centered on Colon, the Mets’ 41-year-old pitcher built like a jukebox who flirted with perfection. Colon retired the first 20 hitters he faced before Cano stroked a sharp single to left field with two outs in the seventh inning.
“Today was (Colon’s) day,” McClendon said. “I’m not going to sit here and overanalyze that. We lost the ballgame. We’ll be OK.”
The Mariners’ best chance at a breakthrough came in the eighth inning. Corey Hart led off with a walk and Dustin Ackley followed with a single. Brad Miller ripped a deep line drive that missed a home run by a couple of feet. He instead settled for a run-scoring double that cut the Mets’ lead to 3-1 and put runners on second and third with one out.
McClendon elected to send Willie Bloomquist to the plate instead of Jesus Sucre, the starting catcher Wednesday. Bloomquist hit a grounder up the middle that scored a run and the Mets’ lead was only 3-2. Bloomquist initially was called safe at first, but the call was overturned and he was out on the ground out. Endy Chavez struck out to end the inning.
The Mariners rallied once more in the ninth. Cano reached on an infield single and Hart singled with two outs. Logan Morrison, however, struck out.
Taijuan Walker, the Mariners’ prized pitching prospect and the subject of nearly every trade rumor involving the Mariners, kept Seattle in the fight with a seesaw outing.
First, the good. Walker consistently worked in the mid-90s with his fastball, displaying the kind of power that makes him so intriguing. He struck out five hitters and didn’t let the first inning get away from him after putting the first two batters of the game on base.
“It was a step in the right direction,” Walker said. “Something to build off of. A lot more positives than negatives.”
But there were some negatives. Walker pointed right away to the number of walks he issued — six — in just five innings.
The Mariners sent Walker back to Class AAA Tacoma after the game because they are skipping the fifth-starter spot due to an off day Monday. A corresponding move will be made before the game Thursday.
“We talked to him about it: the command of the fastball has to get better,” McClendon said. “And he will get better. One thing we have to remember is this young man’s 21 years old.”
Walker spent his past two starts for Tacoma trying to work on mechanical adjustments he hoped would help him throw with a more consistent release point. The tradeoff for that tinkering, though, is that Walker can sometimes focus too much on mechanics instead of just pitching.
“Pitching at this level is hard enough,” McClendon said. “When you’re starting to think about mechanical things, that’s just not a good combination. He’s got to get to the point where everything is happening naturally for him.”
Said Walker, “I try not to think about it, especially when you’re on the mound competing. But it’s tough when the ball gets away from you.”
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Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org