SEATTLE — The game was decided in the top of the 10th inning, but it was lost for the Mariners in the first seven innings — seven very frustrating, unproductive innings.
Sure, Conor Gillaspie provided the winning score, singling home Jordan Danks with an unearned run in the top of the 10th off Mariners closer Fernando Rodney in Saturday’s 2-1 loss before 40,122.
But the difficulties of the first seven innings for the Mariners cannot go unmentioned. For whatever reason, they can’t seem to hit against old friend Hector Noesi, despite watching him get hit hard by just about every team during his two-plus seasons in Seattle.
Once again, Seattle hitters did little against their former teammate, managing just one unearned run and five hits in 71/3 innings against him.
That was the root of the loss that snapped their four-game winning streak. The Mariners (61-55) are 1 1/2 games behind Kansas City in the race for the second wild card.
“We hit in some double plays and just couldn’t get the big hit to get us over the hump,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Noesi’s been tough on us. For some reason, we haven’t been able to figure him out.”
Seattle finally scored against Noesi after 14 2/3 innings this season, though he wasn’t charged with an earned run. Noesi has not allowed an earned run in his last 18 1/3 innings against the Mariners.
In the fourth inning, Robinson Cano reached on an error by second baseman Gordon Beckham. Kendrys Morales singled to left field to put runners on the corners with two outs. Kyle Seager delivered, pulling a sharp ground ball just inside the first-base bag for a run-scoring double. Noesi then walked Mike Zunino to load the bases. But Logan Morrison couldn’t capitalize, grounding out to first to end the inning.
Noesi allowed five hits with one walk and four strikeouts.
“It was the same thing we’ve seen every time we faced him,” Cano said. “He pitched good. You have to give him credit. He’s just one of those guys that pitches good against us more than any other team. We just have to come back tomorrow.”
Mariners starter James Paxton couldn’t make the slim lead hold up. He dominated for six innings, allowing just four hits.
But after six scoreless innings, the White Sox finally got to Paxton. Jose Abreu led off the seventh with a double down the right-field line. He advanced to third on Dayan Viciedo’s fly ball to right field and scored when Paxton left a changeup up in the zone and Alexei Ramirez hammered a double down the left-field line.
“I felt much better tonight,” Paxton said. “I just made a mistake and left that changeup up in the zone to Ramirez.”
With Ramirez on second and slew of right-handed hitters coming up, McClendon lifted Paxton for right-hander Brandon Maurer, who dispatched the next two hitters with ease to keep the score tied at 1-1.
The game stayed that way until the 10th inning. McClendon called on Rodney (1-5) in the top of the inning and then hoped to win it in the bottom of the inning.
But a costly two-out error with a runner on first by shortstop Chris Taylor on Beckham’s routine ground ball prolonged the inning. Beckham hit a slow roller toward short and Taylor charged the ball and it skipped over his glove.
“It’s one of those tough ones where you don’t know if you should play through it or try to break down and get rid of it quick,” he said. “I decided to play through it and ended up getting an in-between hop. I should have made the play, obviously. It’s very frustrating. Hopefully I can learn from it.”
Gillaspie made it hurt, driving home Danks with the go-ahead run.
McClendon wouldn’t place the blame on Taylor. Errors happen, particularly with rookie shortstops.
“It’s baseball, it happens,” McClendon said. “I told him if he’s lucky enough to play this game a long time he’ll make a lot more of those errors. That’s just the way it goes.”
The Mariners got the tying run on base in the bottom of the 10th inning on Morrison’s one-out single. But Taylor grounded into a game-ending double play against Jake Petricka, who picked up his eighth save.