By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Hector Noesi’s18th start of the season reinforced what the previous 17 had shown – that whatever his strengths, the Seattle Mariners pitcher is not ready to be in a major league starting rotation.
Not even in September.
The first pitcher in the majors to lose 10 games this season, Noesi gave up a home run on an 0-2 pitch to the first man he faced Monday, and was pounded in what became a 10-4 Baltimore Orioles victory.
“He just really struggled. He gave up two-strike hits, just put it over the middle of the plate,” manager Eric Wedge said. “The last thing you want to do in first game of a series is go to bullpen in second inning. It makes for a long night, a long series.”
Among the ironies was that, before the game, manager Eric Wedge had talked about the importance of starting the Mariners best team against the contenders Seattle will face over its last 14 games.
And then, he ran Noesi to the mound with a 2-11 record and a 5.54 earned run average, and Noesi allowed seven runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Baltimore didn’t mind – the win inched them to within a half game of the American League East-leading New York Yankees.
What Noesi did, however, was pitch his team out of any chance to win, disappointing a Safeco Field crowd of 13,036.
“We had some good at-bats, some good swings, and we kept fighting,” Wedge said. “but we were behind so fast, so early. Noesi has to be better than that.”
Another rookie, Erasmo Ramirez, will start against the Orioles tonight, as the Mariners continue to look at what could be part of their future. The difference?
Ramirez earned the right to start this month during his two months in Class AAA Tacoma, where he went 6-3 with a 3.72 ERA. In his first September start, he beat Toronto with seven solid innings.
Noesi? He made 11 starts with the Rainiers, went 2-6 with a 5.76 ERA.
Part of general manager Jack Zduriencik’s winter trade that sent Michael Pineda to New York for Jesus Montero, Noesi likely would not have started at all this month had the GM not wanted to see him.
Montero hasn’t yet shown he can be a first-string catcher, and in his first full season is batting .264 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI.
Noesi hasn’t shown the ability to consistently control big-league lineups – or Pacific Coast League teams – in 2012. Yet he was scheduled to start again Saturday against the Texas Rangers.
“Another start? I don’t know. I’m not sure right now – we’ll sit down and look at it,” Wedge said.
When Noesi gave up the leadoff homer to Baltimore’s Nate McLouth, it was the fifth time this season he’d allowed a long ball on an 0-2 pitch – a stat that leads the big leagues.
It didn’t help the mood in Safeco much that the Orioles starting pitcher in this one was Chris Tillman, a right-hander the Mariners sent to Baltimore – along with center fielder Adam Jones and a then-healthy George Sherrill – for pitcher Erik Bedard.
Tillman cruised to his eighth win since coming up from AAA on July 4, and he’s now 3-0 vs. Seattle in 2012. Lifetime, Tillman has 14 career big-league wins.
Four have come against the Mariners.
With an offensive tidal wave putting him ahead 7-0 in the second inning, Tillman dominated Seattle hitters, save a Michael Saunders solo home run in the second inning.
That made the score 7-1. The Mariners never got closer when it mattered.
Baltimore added on, and by the time Seattle scored again, on an Eric Thames solo home run in the eighth inning, the Mariners pulled to within eight at 10-2.
By then, Wedge had begun pulling regulars from the field, inserting Munenori Kawasaki, Carlos Triunfel, Alex Liddi and Trayvon Robinson.
When Seattle opened the ninth inning down by eight runs, most of the fans were headed home – and missed the Mariners biggest rally of the night.
Jesus Montero doubled into the left field corner and John Jaso homered into the right field stands, making it 10-4. Justin Smoak singled with one out.
Thames struck out, Triunfel drew a walk and Kawasaki slapped a single into center field that loaded the bases, but Robinson struck out on three pitches.
The Mariners record fell to 70-78. As for Noesi, no one can say he didn’t contribute to Seattle’s record. He has, after all, lost 12 times.