Mariner bats stay quiet in loss to White Sox

Slumping Mariners held in check in 4-1 loss to White Sox

CHICAGO — Scott Servais sat perched in the visitor’s dugout of U.S. Cellular Field before Sunday afternoon’s game against the White Sox. He gazed out at the field wistfully hoped that his team could muster the surge of offense its proven to be capable of producing.

“I would love to see us get on a hot streak,” he said. “I was thinking about things coming to the park this morning. Our pitching has been pretty good, it really has. To kind of carry us on the road today, especially going into Texas, I’d like to see our bats get going and carry us and starting put up a consistent five, six, seven runs on the board.”

The Mariners fell about, four, five or six runs short of that goal in the finale of a disappointing series with the White Sox. Seattle scored just one run on Robinson Cano’s 30th homer and failed to deliver on a handful of scoring opportunities in a 4-1 loss.

The Mariners dropped to 68-62 and for the fifth time in six games were held to three runs or less. They travel to Texas for a three-game series against the division-leading Rangers. The Mariners will face Yu Darvish and lefty Cole Hamels in the first two games of the series.

“We had a couple of chances there with runners in scoring position and didn’t come through,” Servais said.

Chicago starter Carlos Rodon, the third left-hander Seattle faced in three days, pitched six innings giving up one run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts to improve to 5-8.

The first of those chances came in the second inning following Kyle Seager’s one-out triple off the wall in right-center. Needing a ball out of the infield, Franklin Gutierrez was rung up on a questionable strike three from John Hirschbeck. Mike Zunino struck out to end the inning.

Down 2-1 in the seventh, Seager and Gutierrez had back-to-back singles to start the inning and force Rodon from the game. With Zunino hitless in his last 15 plate appearances with eight strikeouts, Servais had him sacrifice bunt. The ball in play was a little too hard, allowing third baseman Todd Frazier to fire to second to get Gutierrez, setting up a potential double play, which is what followed.

Servais called on Adam Lind to pinch-hit for the struggling Dae-Ho Lee. Sox manager Robin Ventura countered with lefty Dan Jennings. Lind hit the first pitch hard to the right side, but second baseman Tyler Saladino made a nifty sliding stop and started the 4-6-3 double play.

“A foot either way and it’s a different game,” Servais said. “That’s baseball.”

The lack of offense overshadowed a solid start from Taijuan Walker. The big right-hander didn’t have his best fastball, which sat around 92-93 mph, but he pitched inside and was effective with his changeup to get quick outs. Walker worked 7 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts

“That was as good as we’ve seen him since early in the year,” Servais said. “It was really encouraging start.”

Walker and catcher Mike Zunino implemented a game plan of pitching inside with the fastball and owning that side of the plate. He did so in businesslike fashion, ignoring the two times he hit Jose Abreu with a pitch or a pitch that hit Adam Eaton and knocked him out of the game. Walker admitted he was “pitching angry.”

“When you throw in, it’s going to happen,” he said. “You have to make them uncomfortable. I’m not trying to hit a batter, but I’m trying to get them off the plate and off my fastball.”

He retired his first nine hitters before dotting Eaton with a pitch on the arm. With one out, Melky Cabrera lofted a fly ball toward the right field line. In a play similar to Saturday, Franklin Gutierrez’s legs wouldn’t allow him to get near the ball to make a play. It dropped for a double when it could have been an out.

“Where we are aligned and Guti’s range, the ball hit in good spots for them,” Servais said. “It’s unfortunate for us.”

Instead of two outs and a runner on first, Walker had runners on second and third with one out. He hit Abreu to load the bases. Justin Morneau followed with a shift-beating ground ball to the vacated shortstop area for two runs.

“They found a couple of holes,” Walker said, being diplomatic.

Walker kept the damage to two runs and worked the fifth, sixth and seventh innings scoreless. Cano cut the 2-0 lead in half, slamming a towering solo shot to right field off a Rodon fastball with two outs in the sixth.

It was Cano’s second season of 30 or more homers (33 in 2012).

“In the situation we are in, it doesn’t matter how good I do or how I play in the game, if we don’t win it doesn’t really mean much,” Cano said. “We have to stick together as a team. Taijuan pitched a really good game, but we just didn’t score run.”

At 93 pitches and having allowed two runs on two hits over seven innings, Servais brought Walker back out of the eighth. He retired J.B. Shuck, but gave up a single to Tim Anderson and an RBI triple to Melky Cabrera that ended his outing. Reliever Dan Altavilla came in and allowed a sac fly for the fourth run to score.

Against closer David Robertson, the Mariners got singles from Cano and Seager to bring the tying run to the plate with one out. Gutierrez, who had two hits in the game, struck out swinging and Mike Zunino grounded into a force play.