By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — On a Tuesday when organizational concern first focused on Taijuan Walker’s aborted start at Class AAA Tacoma, the big-league Seattle Mariners receded quietly into the night in a 5-0 loss to Texas.
Texas Rangers starter Robbie Ross smothered a Mariners attack that showed signs of life Monday when Seattle won 7-1 in the series opener at Globe Life Park — and the lefty made it look easy.
“I can just speak for myself,” shortstop Brad Miller said. “Not very competitive. This is the big leagues. If you give a pitcher like that easy outs, he’ll cruise.”
This was a five-star sailing.
Ross (1-0) limited the Mariners to five hits, all singles, in 72⁄3 innings before Alexi Ogando and Neal Cotts completed the shutout. Four of the five hits against Ross were routine grounders that found holes.
“It’s probably the first night I’m a little disappointed with our approach,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I thought we should have done better.”
Ross walked eight over 101⁄3 innings in his two previous starts, but he didn’t walk anyone on Tuesday.
“I stopped trying to pick and throw to one particular spot,” he said. “I tried to throw to a location. It was kind of like I thought, ‘You know what? We’ve got guys behind me who can make all the plays and keep me in the game.’
“So, I didn’t go out there and try to strike everybody out. I felt pretty good about the way I went after it.”
For McClendon, though, what happened Tuesday said more about the Mariners than about Ross. This was, in effect, a step back to last weekend, when the Mariners mustered just one run in two home losses to Oakland.
“He did OK,” McClendon said of Ross, “but I don’t think that was a Cy Young performance.”
It was also an enormously frustrating night for Blake Beavan, who got the call instead of Walker when the Mariners needed somebody to replace injured James Paxton in their rotation.
This was Beavan’s chance to step forward after a checkered three-plus seasons, but he never got loose. Even he admitted he was lucky to limit the damage to two runs — albeit two loud runs — in four innings.
“I just couldn’t get loose from the get-go,” Beavan said. “The first inning was a little rough for the command. Definitely, velocity was way down.”
McClendon noticed a problem almost immediately and went to the mound for an explanation.
“He was just asking if I felt all right,” Beavan said, “because I’d said something before the game about feeling a little tight. (I thought it was) some usual stuff that you feel you can get worked out.”
That didn’t happen, and the bill came due in the second inning when Prince Fielder led off with a booming 416-foot homer to center field. Kevin Kouzmanoff followed with a 405-foot drive to left.
“Pitching in that second inning,” Beavan said, “and giving up those two home runs … yeah, they weren’t the best pitches, but it just really made me mad with how my arm was feeling and trying to battle through that.”
Texas put the game away with a three-run eighth against Tom Wilhelmsen, who hadn’t pitched since April 8 because of back stiffness. Kouzmanoff drove a two-run double into the left-center gap with two outs.
“No, he wasn’t (sharp),” McClendon conceded, “but it was good to get him back out there. Obviously, he elevated a breaking ball, but I thought it was important to get him out there and get him going again.”
The word on Walker came just prior to the start of the game. He was scratched from a planned rehab start at Tacoma after reported stiffness in his shoulder prior to the game. He will be reevaluated again on Tuesday.
Walker missed time in spring training because of a sore shoulder but had progressed pain-free in recent weeks and seemed likely to rejoin the rotation in the near future. Now, that’s on hold.
There’s also doubt whether Beavan (0-1) will be ready to pitch Sunday in Miami on his next scheduled turn.
“I think the next couple of days,” he said, “will be a lot of training room time.”