Home is still not a sweet home for the first-place Seattle Mariners.
Starter Taijuan Walker had his teammates’ bats and gloves underachieve for him over his mostly dominant 71/3 innings on Monday night. Then when Walker departed, the Mariners’ recently resurgent bullpen tanked, too.
Three relievers — including Vidal Nuno, who hit Stephen Vogt with the bases loaded and Joel Peralta, who allowed a two-run single — aided Oakland’s four-run eighth inning. All of those runs were unearned, thanks to two ground balls shortstop Chris Taylor threw past first baseman Dae-Ho Lee and into the box seats.
And Seattle returned home from a 5-1 road trip by losing ugly, 5-0, to the previously skidding A’s before 16,370 to open an eight-game homestand at Safeco Field.
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If the Mariners just stayed on the road they’d have the best record in baseball. Seattle (26-18) fell to 8-11 at home.
The Mariners were shut out at Safeco for the third time this season. One of the American League’s better teams in home runs and scoring, Seattle has scored two or fewer runs eight times in 19 home games.
For the first six innings Monday night, Walker (2-4) looked King Felix-like. He retired 16 consecutive Oakland batters from Coco Crisp’s single to lead off the game to No. 9-hitter Jake Smolinski’s broken-bat single on a bail-out swing to begin the sixth. At the end of those half-innings, Walker mimicked Hernandez at his best, slowly strutting off the mound and looking around at those he was dominating.
When the 23-year old retired speedy Billy Burns on a bunt attempt with a runner on to end the Athletics’ top of the sixth, he punched his glove.
But when Walker finally got to his first three-ball count, in the seventh inning, Stephen Vogt punched back. Oakland’s No.-3 hitter drove Walker’s high, 3-1 fastball deep into the right-field bleachers for a no-doubt home run.
So ended the scoreless duel with Rich Hill. Not to mention Seattle’s four-game winning streak and Oakland’s four-game slide.
While his change-up and curveball had been his best pitches this season, foes had been batting .315 against Walker’s fastball. But Monday he got 13 of those 16 straight outs with his fastball.
But with his offense generating nothing, it only took one fastball to Vogt to do him in. Walker ended up allowing five runs – only one earned – on four hits with one walk in six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
He deserved far, far better than the hook and support he got in that eighth.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s batters failed to capitalize on its six hits against Hill in the first 22/3 innings.
Seattle loaded the bases with no outs in the second. But Chris Iannetta extended his skid to 0 for 9 with a strikeout, deposed former leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki grounded into a force out at home in his first at-bat of the season in the No. 8 lineup spot, and Taylor struck out swinging on three pitches.
That was the lost opportunity that lost the game for the Mariners. Hill (7-3) then retired 14 straight Mariners into the eighth.
Taylor was making his first start since a call-up from Triple-A Tacoma and red-eye flight to Cincinnati Sunday, when shortstop Ketel Marte went on the 15-day disabled list. After Taylor’s two errors is Seattle’s dismal eighth inning Monday, Shawn O’Malley seems likely to get more time at short until Marte’s sprained thumb heals.