By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Hector Noesi pitched brilliantly for the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night. Well, except for the one inning when he didn’t, that is.
And on a night when the Mariners’ lineup also was stymied by a strong pitching performance, Noesi’s one rough inning was enough for the Texas Rangers to secure a 3-1 victory in front of 15,604 at Safeco Field.
Noesi pitched eight innings, giving up three runs and three hits while striking out seven, and in six of those innings, he didn’t allow a base runner.
The third inning, however, was a different story for Noesi.
After walking a pair of batters, Noesi was one strike from escaping the self-inflicted jam, but he hung a 1-2 curveball to Elvis Andrus, who lined a triple into left-centerfield to score a pair of runs. Josh Hamilton drove in Andrus with a bloop double, and that was all the runs the Rangers would get, or need, against Noesi.
“One bad pitch, he hung a breaking ball to Andrus, that was it,” said Mariners manager Eric Wedge, whose team had won four consecutive games prior to Tuesday’s loss.
“Other than that he was outstanding today. Eight strong innings, did a great job against that lineup, and didn’t let that get to him either, which I think says a great deal about that young man. He gave us every opportunity to win the ballgame.”
Noesi agreed with his manager that the game turned on that one pitch to Andrus. Asked where he wanted that pitch to end up, Noesi replied: “The ground.”
Unlike the Rangers, the Mariners weren’t able to take full advantage of an opposing pitcher’s early struggles.
Seattle did get one run across in the first inning off Rangers starter Matt Harrison when Alex Liddi scored on a Justin Smoak single. But Seattle could have done much more damage, having left the bases loaded. Harrison threw 35 pitches in the first, but settled down after that and did not allow another run while pitching into the eighth.
It wasn’t entirely Harrison’s pitching that kept the Mariners from doing more damage. They were also the victims of a few impressive defensive plays, as well as their own spacious ballpark.
The final out that allowed Harrison to escape in the first was a Casper Wells’ drive that Hamilton tracked down with a running catch at the center-field wall. Two innings later, Liddi thought he had a home run, or at the very least a double off the wall, but Hamilton robbed him with a leaping catch against the wall.
“I hit it pretty good, I thought it had a chance to go out, then he made a good play and he caught it,” Liddi said. “… I thought (Wells’ fly out) was going to go out too. That’s how it goes. We know this is our field, it’s like that, so we’ve got to get used to it and make an adjustment.”
The Mariners also missed a chance to get a run back in the fifth inning. Brendan Ryan, who had doubled two batters earlier, was held at third base after a Liddi grounder bounced off of Adrian Beltre’s glove and into shallow left field. It appeared Ryan would have scored on the play had third base coach Jeff Datz sent him, and Ryan looked to be frustrated after he stopped and saw where the ball ended up. Ichiro Suzuki then grounded out to end the inning, stranding Ryan.
Datz told reporters after the game that he “screwed that up” by not sending Ryan, but Wedge pointed out that it was a tougher play to diagnose for Datz because of the way the ball was moving directly away from him.
“I think it was a tough angle for those guys over there,” Wedge said. “It’s a lot easier angle for us in the dugout, but from over there it’s a tough angle to read that play.”
The Mariners led off the eighth with back-to-back singles off Harrison by Liddi and Suzuki. That ended Harrinson’s night, and reliever Mike Adams got out of the jam by getting Jesus Montero to fly out and then striking out Smoak and Kyle Seager. Both Smoak and Seager appeared to swing at what would have been ball four to end their at-bats.
The Mariners then went down in order in the ninth against Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who struck out Michael Saunders and Ryan to end the game.
“I felt like we got a little anxious with two strikes at the end,” Wedge said. “That was really what stuck out to me. Yeah, we want our guys up there ready to hit, and they are, but I felt like we just expanded a little bit too much with two strikes there at the end.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.