SEATTLE – One night after having a win cruelly snatched from their grasp in the ninth inning, the Mariners had much more time to process their latest defeat.
It was set into motion in the first inning, when the White Sox scored two off Hector Noesi, and all but sealed in the second when Chicago knocked out Noesi with four more en route to a 7-3 triumph at Safeco Field.
For the Mariners, in front of an Ichiro-bobblehead-night crowd of 19,947, the rest of the evening was distinguished by Hasashi Iwakuma’s long-awaited major-league debut, and a majestic homer to dead center by Jesus Montero.
But their hopes of getting back into the game were thwarted early, when they left five runners in scoring position over the first four innings after a stout relief effort by Erasmo Ramirez had stymied the White Sox.
Noesi, coming off a brilliant effort against Oakland last time out – eight shutout innings for his first Mariners win – struggled from the start. He labored through a 39-pitch first inning that featured an 11-pitch walk by A.J. Pierzynski. Adam Dunn, who had his biggest game since joining the White Sox as a free agent last year, drove in one with a double, and Alex Rios added a sacrifice fly.
In the second inning, Dunn chased Noesi with a towering three-run homer to right-center. Dunn finished with two homers and five runs batted in, eclipsing his four RBIs on opening day last year, which disintegrated into a nightmare .159 season.
Noesi was charged with six runs in just 11/3 innings. In his two defeats this year, he has allowed 12 hits and 13 runs in 41/3 innings.
Ramirez restored order by holding the White Sox scoreless on one hit over the next 32/3 innings. But the Mariners kept squandering scoring chances, including one right from the get-go. After Chone Figgins led off the Seattle first with an infield single and moved to third on a Dustin Ackley single, Ichiro struck out and Justin Smoak grounded into a double play.
Ichiro would later deliver a run-scoring double in the third, and an RBI single in the seventh. Montero blasted his second Mariners homer – like the first, to center field – off White Sox left-handed starter Chris Sale in the sixth. Sale, a converted reliever, struck out 11 in 61/3 inning.
Montero also threw out his first would-be base stealer, nailing Gordon Beckham in the seventh. Montero had been 0 for 4 on stolen-base attempts.
In the sixth inning Iwakuma trotted in from the bullpen to face the White Sox.
Signed out of Japan in January, Iwakuma had lost out in a bid to make Seattle’s rotation and was withering away in the Mariners bullpen. But he made a strong showing, allowing just one hit over four innings.
Iwakuma’s only slip-up was a homer by Dunn leading off the eighth, Dunn’s second of the game.