With shaky control, Walker drops pitchers' duel
Rookie walks five; bullpen combines for four no-hit innings
CHICAGO -- Hector Noesi insisted there was no extra motivation in facing his former Mariners club on Sunday, but the erratic right-hander certainly produced one of the best starts of his career as the White Sox topped Seattle, 1-0, on a day they managed just two hits of their own at U.S. Cellular Field.
Noesi, who was released the first week of the season after three difficult years in Seattle, pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the Mariners bats stayed mostly mum for a third straight game in the Windy City.
"It was not motivation, I just go out there and pitch," Noesi said after improving to 3-6 with a 4.90 ERA for the White Sox. "Yeah, it did cross my mind, but if I put it in my mind, I would get lost trying to do too much."
Three wins for the White Sox is more than the 27-year totaled his entire time in Seattle, when he went 2-14 with a 6.13 ERA in 36 games before being designated for assignment and then dealt to Texas. He got roughed up in three games with the Rangers, then wound up finding a home with the White Sox after being claimed off waivers.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon felt his club helped Noesi out considerably.
"If you're looking for accolades from me, you'd probably be better off talking to [White Sox manager Robin Ventura] about that," said McClendon. "We swung at a lot of balls. If we were patient, we probably should have walked seven to eight times today. We just didn't have good at-bats."
Mariners hitters were generally kinder to Noesi, who has a 3.46 ERA over his last three starts for the White Sox.
"You can watch a guy when you're playing behind him, but when you're in the box, it's a whole different thing," third baseman Kyle Seager said after an 0-for-4 day. "He's always had really good stuff. That's never been the issue. I can only speak for myself, but today he located extremely well on me. He never gave me really anything to hit hard. He threw the ball really well."
After scoring 28 runs in three wins in Houston, the Mariners couldn't muster much offensively against any of the White Sox hurlers as they totaled just four runs in 32 innings while losing two of three. Seattle is 5-23 at U.S. Cellular Field since the start of the 2008 season.
Still, the Mariners won four of six games on the road trip and return home to face Minnesota and Oakland before the All-Star break, bringing with them a 48-40 record that has them smack in the middle of the early American League playoff chase.
The Mariners have ridden its pitching for most of the first half, and though they gave up just two hits Sunday, they still lost as the White Sox tallied their run on a wild pitch by Taijuan Walker in the first inning. It's the first time the White Sox have won a 1-0 game with the only run scoring on a wild pitch since a game against the Angels in 1966.
Walker, ranked the No. 5 prospect in baseball by MLB.com, lasted just four innings in his second start for the Mariners since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma, as wildness and a high pitch count derailed an outing in which he gave up just the one run.
"Again, the command of my fastball wasn't there," said Walker. "I definitely have to go back and watch video and figure out what's going on with that. I'm just getting too quick and excited. I think it's something small and once I find it and it clicks, I think I'll be back to normal. Everything else feels fine."
But Walker's mid-90s heater is his best pitch and, despite just the two hits, he issued five walks with two wild pitches before being replaced by Dominic Leone after throwing 83 pitches. The 21-year-old lost for the first time in five career starts and is now 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in two outings this year.
"They didn't really do any damage off him; he did the damage to himself," said McClendon, who declined to use Walker's belated start to the season as an excuse. "He's had 40-some innings under his belt now. He should be getting better. For me, it was a disappointing outing. We've got to shore some things up. The biggest thing is he's got to get command of the strike zone, and he just didn't have it today."
The lone run came on a wild pitch on a walk to Adam Dunn, with the elevated ball four glancing off the top of catcher John Buck's mitt and rolling to the backstop as Conor Gillaspie scampered home from third.
Leone and Brandon Maurer held the White Sox hitless with two walks and five strikeouts over the final four frames, but Seattle never solved its own offensive issues.
The Mariners had a chance after Noesi was replaced with two on and two out in the seventh and reliever Eric Surkamp walked Michael Saunders, but Robinson Cano flied out to center with the bases loaded on a day Seattle went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
"We didn't swing the bats extremely well," McClendon said. "The balls we did hit hard, they made great plays on. It was just their day. That's the way it goes. That's baseball."