Beltre drives in five runs and the Mariners can’t rally in 7-3 loss at Texas.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Mariners’ propensity for comeback wins this season is a good quality for any team to possess, but it isn’t something to be relied upon night after night.
At some point, the starting pitching, which has been mediocre of late, can’t expect the Mariners to climb out of early deficits.
Seattle got its fifth outing of five innings or less from a starting pitcher in the last eight games, and there was no miraculous comeback from the early deficit this time.
Adrian Beltre drove in five of the six runs the Rangers scored off Seattle starter Taijuan Walker, and Texas rolled to a 7-3 win over the Mariners on Friday night in the opener of the big three-game series between the top two teams in the American League West.
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The Mariners (31-23) fell a game behind the Rangers (32-22) in the AL West.
“We just had a hard time getting the game going on the mound and getting into any rhythm and giving our offense any chance,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s disappointing. We just got beat tonight. We didn’t pitch particularly well. And that’s a good team over there.”
The “we” was largely pointing at Walker and his outing of five innings, six runs allowed on nine hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
His May woes carried into June. In his last seven outings, Walker is 0-6 with a 5.77 ERA. He’s thrown 341/3 innings, giving up 22 earned runs on 38 hits with 12 walks, 27 strikeouts and 10 homers.
“He’s a young pitcher and I think guys need to develop at the big-league level and continue that process,” Servais said. “He’s in developmental mode at the big-league level and it’s hard to do. He’s having a hard time finding a secondary pitch that’s going to work.”
Of his 107 pitches, Walker threw 31 changeups, seven curveballs and three sliders, with 21 going for strikes. That’s a strike percentage of just over 50 percent. He generated just three swings and misses on them — all changeups.
“The quality of the pitches is not quite there, the sharpness, crispness to get guys off the fastball,” Servais said. “He’s got a good fastball, sometimes it’s better later in the game than it is early, but that secondary pitch is huge. You’ve got to go back and forth in this league, otherwise they will get on the fastball.”
Walker wasn’t completely in agreement with that assessment.
“I feel like my fastball is good and when it’s on, everything plays off that,” he said. “When my fastball is going, my changeup is good.”
The easy assumption is to point at Walker’s fastball velocity sitting between 91-93 mph and topping at 94 mph as the issue on Friday night. But it was more command than velocity. The four walks (one intentional) were one hint of the issues. But just 58 strikes in 107 pitches, including 37 strikes on 62 fastballs, were telling.
“I’m just trying to place it in there instead of throwing it to a spot,” he said. “I’m trying to pick at the corners and be too careful.”
Walker doesn’t want to pitch passively. He felt he’s done that early in recent games. It could stem from allowing at least two homers in four of his last six starts.
“It’s not me,” he said. “I need to figure out what really gets me going with my stuff. It could be a simple fix. I just have to figure out what it is. Tell myself go out there and let it loose and not be too cute. I have to find that conviction with pitches.”
In a regrettable first inning, Walker gave up a one-out single to Ian Desmond and then walked dangerous rookie Nomar Mazara to bring Beltre to the plate.
Walker left a 0-1 slider/cutter over the middle of the plate. Beltre jerked the pitch over the wall in left field for a line-drive, three-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
After a scoreless second inning and his team trimming the lead to 3-1 on a Seth Smith sacrifice fly in the top of the inning, Walker repeated his earlier pattern with no outs in the bottom of the third. He gave up a single to Desmond and walked Mazara again to bring Beltre to the plate. Walker fell behind 2-1 and threw a changeup in the hitters’ count, hoping to beat Beltre. The pitch stayed up and over the plate. Beltre hammered it into right-center for a double to score both runners to make it 5-1.