June was a dreadful month for the Mariners, who ought to be glad to flip the calendar in the hope of better times ahead. That said, they sent June packing with a satisfying kick in the pants.
Taijuan Walker returned to the rotation in top form by pitching into the seventh inning, and the Mariners, finally, solved longtime nemesis Chris Tillman in a 5-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field.
So goodbye to a 10-18 month.
There were anxious moments at the end, but the Mariners held on for a victory that pulled them back over .500 at 40-39 and halted Baltimore’s seven-game winning streak.
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The highlight was Walker (4-6) returning to the tantalizing form that he flashed in April, when he appeared to be harnessing his potential as an emerging ace.
Walker was 1-6 with a 4.44 ERA in his last 10 starts and had missed his last turn though the rotation after tendinitis in his right foot forced an early departure in his previous two outings.
This time, he carried a two-hit shutout into the seventh inning.
The Mariners carried a 5-1 lead into the eighth, but the Orioles got the tying run to the plate against a shaky Joaquin Benoit before manager Scott Servais called on closer Steve Cishek for a four-out save.
Cishek gave up an RBI single before protecting a two-run lead by striking out Chris Davis with two runners on base.
But the Orioles opened the ninth inning with a single from Mark Trumbo, before Cishek secured the victory for his 19th save in 23 chances.
Tillman (10-2) entered the game at 7-0 with a 2.96 ERA in nine previous starts against the Mariners, but he exited after throwing 112 pitches through 4 2/3 innings while giving up four runs and six hits.
The Mariners selected Tillman in the second round of the 2006 draft but shipped him to the Orioles with center fielder Adam Jones and three other players in a disastrous 2008 trade for pitcher Erik Bedard.
Walker lost his shutout when Hyun Soo Kim opened the seventh inning with a homer to right. When Davis flicked a one-out single to left, Servais pulled Walker for rookie Edwin Diaz, who struck out the next two hitters.
The Mariners answered that run back later in the inning against reliever Dylan Bundy after Nelson Cruz reached third on a one-out double combined with a Jones error in center.
It required another Baltimore mistake to score the run.
After an intentional walk to Kyle Seager, Dae-Ho Lee appeared to hit into an inning-ending double play. But second baseman Jonathan Schoop wasn’t on the base when he took the throw.
Servais convinced crew chief Mike Winters to review the call which, when overturned, resulted in a run and a 5-1 lead.
It was enough.
The Mariners made Tillman pay in the first inning for two-out walks to Robinson Cano and Cruz when Seager sliced an RBI single to left.
Walker retired the first 11 Orioles before Manny Machado split the right-center gap with a two-out drive in the fourth inning. It looked like a sure double, but center fielder Leonys Martin played the carom perfectly.
Shortstop Ketel Marte took the throw from Martin and threw out Machado before he could scramble back to first.
The Mariners pushed their lead to 4-0 with a three-run fifth inning that knocked out Tillman.
Martin lined a one-out single to left, and Seth Smith — after fouling off an attempt to beat an overshifted infield with a bunt — turned on a breaking ball for a 389-foot homer to right. The Mariners led 3-0.
After Cano followed with a single, Cruz sent a drive to right beyond Trumbo’s reach for a double that moved Cano to third. An intentional walk to Seager loaded the bases with one out for Lee.
A soft drive to right fell in front of Trumbo, but the runners had to hold up — and Trumbo reacted quickly by making a strong throw to third for a force out on Cruz.
The Mariners challenged, but the call stood. Even so, Cano scored on the play for a 4-0 lead.