Walker leaves after 31/3 innings after aggravating tendon in foot, and bullpen wastes three-run lead in 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In what might have been one of their most disappointing losses of the season, the Mariners had their starting pitcher exit in fourth inning with an injury and their bullpen give away a likely victory in the seventh on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
Which proves to be more costly will be determined as to when Taijuan Walker is able to step on the mound again.
Mariners manager Scott Servais couldn’t choose just one that thing that was the most frustrating. Not with Walker leaving with persistent pain in the back and side of his right foot, having the bullpen blow a three-run lead in an 8-7 loss by giving up four runs in the seventh inning or failing to turn the game into a double-digit rout in the first four innings.
All those things played into the outcome.
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Walker’s condition is probably priority No. 1 for a rotation already without Felix Hernandez. After initial reports from the team said Walker aggravated his Achilles tendon in his right foot, Servais and head trainer Rick Griffin clarified that it wasn’t the Achilles, but the posterior tibial tendon which runs alongside the Achilles.
“It helps to control your arch,” Griffin said. “He’s got tendinitis in it and some inflammation in it. Luckily and gratefully, it’s not the Achilles.”
It’s something that Walker has dealt with this season, but never kept him out.
With one out in the fourth inning and having just given up a solo homer to Steve Pearce, Walker threw a 3-2, 93 mph fastball that Corey Dickerson hit off the wall for a triple. Walker made an awkward little hop after the delivery, favoring his right foot.
Moments later, Griffin was on the field along with Servais and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. After a brief discussion, Walker handed the ball to Servais and walked off the field.
“He tried to gut it out and stay in as long as he could,” Servais said. “But you could see something wasn’t right.”
The discomfort had actually started in the second inning after a pitch.
“I just couldn’t really push off and use my legs,” Walker said. “It sucks. I felt really good today.”
The training staff noticed Walker favoring the foot after charging off the mound and fielding a soft comebacker. When they saw his mechanics change, they knew it was time.
“He was using all arm to throw,” Griffin said. “You could tell he wasn’t pushing off. He can’t do that. We can’t have him hurting his arm because he’s favoring his leg.”
Walker pitched 31/3 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on three hits with a walk and four strikeouts. He exited a start in Houston on May 6 with neck spasms.
Walker struck out the first four batters he faced, but an error by Ketel Marte and a deep homer by Dickerson in the second inning cut a 4-0 lead in half.
Both Servais and Walker are hopeful he will make his next start. The key will be to keep the tendon from getting inflamed in the next few days.
Rookie Edwin Diaz was outstanding in relief of Walker, working 21/3 innings, giving up just two hits with five strikeouts. The Mariners pushed their 5-4 lead to 7-4 in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly from Adam Lind and an RBI ground out from Norichika Aoki.
Servais called on right-hander Nick Vincent to pitch the seventh. He never got out of the inning.
Vincent gave up a one-out single to light-hitting catcher Curt Casali, who was hitting .176 coming into the game. With two outs, Vincent walked Brad Miller, something that isn’t easy to do with the free-swinging former Mariner.
That free pass brought Evan Longoria to the plate as the tying run.
He wasn’t at the plate long, jumping on the first pitch he saw from Vincent — a cut fastball away — driving it into the stands in deep left-center for his 16th homer of the year.
“He’s a good hitter,” Vincent said. “It was off the plate a little, but if I had known that situation, it’s got to be for a ball. Now, I know. In the future, he probably won’t get that pitch.”
It only got worse.
The Mariners (34-30) went to left-hander Mike Montgomery in hopes of getting that final out.
Montgomery walked Logan Morrison, walked Pearce and then gave up a single on the first pitch to Dickerson, allowing the go-ahead run to score.