During an interview on KJR-AM 950 Thursday, Roots Sports baseball analyst Bill Krueger offered the view that a major key to the Mariners’ season would be the ability of the bullpen’s right-handed set-up men – Tom Wilhelmsen, Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina and Hector Noesi — to throw effective strikes. Sure enough, Wilhelmsen and Noesi proved Krueger an oracle of distinction several hours after his radio appearance.
Oakland tied Friday night’s game 2-2 on a Yoenis Cespedes triple off Wilhemsen in the eighth inning, and won it in the 12th when Coco Crisp sent a 0-1 fastball from Noesi over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field, handing Seattle its first loss of the season.
The Mariners were attempting to open a season with four consecutive wins for just the second time in franchise history. The only year they managed such a rare start was 1985 — three years before Russell Wilson was born, or four U.S. presidents, three popes and 10 James Bond films ago. The Dow stood at 1300.
The walk-off loss delivered so swiftly by Noesi Thursday is the 50th the Mariners have suffered since the start of the 2010 season, far and away the most in the majors over that span (St. Louis and Cincinnati have both sustained 37).
This is also the earliest by calendar date that the Mariners lost via a walk-off hit (previous: April 6, 2010, when Oakland’s Mark Ellis hit a walk-off single off Seattle reliever Kanekoa Texeira).
Largely a disappointment since his acquisition from the Yankees in the Jesus Montero trade, Noesi is new to surrendering walk-off his. Thursday was his first as a member of the Mariners, and will likely be his last as he was designated for assignment less than 24 hours after giving up the walk-off. Since 2010, these Mariner pitchers yielded the most:
BRANDON LEAGUE (8): May 18, 2010 at Oakland (Kurt Suzuki home run), May 29, 2010 at Anaheim (Kendrys Morales grand slam), May 10, 2011 at Baltimore (Matt Weiters single), May 12, 2011 at Baltimore (J.J. Hardy single), May 13, 2011 at Cleveland (Travis Hafner home run), April 23, 2011 at Cleveland (Shin-Soo Choo home run), April 30, 2012 at Tampa Bay (Elliot Johnson single), May 17, 2012 at Cleveland (Carlos Santana single).
DAVID AARDSMA (3): April 24, 2010 at Chicago White Sox (Alex Rios home run), May 30, 2010 at Anaheim (Howie Kendrick home run), June 11, 2010 at San Diego (Nick Hundley sacrifice fly).
DAN CORTES (3): Sept. 29, 2010 at Texas (wild pitch to Nelson Cruz), Dan Cortes, Aug. 5, 2011 at Anaheim (Vernon Wells single), Aug. 21, 2011 at Tampa Bay (Johnny Damon home run).
TOM WILHELMSEN (3): July 20, 2012 at Tampa Bay (Ben Zobrist triple), Aug. 24, 2012 at Chicago (Paul Konerko single), June 1, 2013 at Minnesota (Ryan Doumit triple).
YOERVIS MEDINA (3): May 18, 2013 at Cleveland (Mark Reynolds fielder’s choice), May 29, 2013 at San Diego (Will Venable single), Aug. 1, 2013 at Boston (Daniel Nava single).
In addition to these calamities, the Mariners have also lost via a walk-off bunt (Aug. 16, 2010, Adam Jones of Baltimore) and a walk-off passed ball (Sept. 13, 2013 at St. Louis, charged to Mike Zunino).
AL WEST: Houston (2-1) saw its two-game winning streak snapped, losing 4-2 to the Yankees. The Astros hit into four double plays in the first five innings, went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left seven men stranded. The Rangers and Angels were idle. Texas begins a series at Tampa Friday while the Angels are at Houston.
ROSTER MOVEMENT: Mariners RHP Stephen Pryor (surgery) began a rehab assignment with AA Jackson Thursday and RHP Taijuan Walker (shoulder) will make a rehab start for A High Desert Friday.
EX-MARINERS: Ichiro (2011-10) received his first start of the season for the Yankees and hit a career-low eighth in the order. He went 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double and scored twice.
COMING UP: Chris Young (1-2, 6.81 in AA in 2013) vs. Dan Straily (10-8, 3.96 in 2013). Young, dropped by the Nationals in spring training, received a spot in Seattle’s rotation only because Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker began the season on the disabled list.
The Mariners are not counting on Young, who gets injured as often as Erik Bedard, for the whole season. The 6-foot-10 Young is an extreme flyball pitcher who is especially vulnerable to the stolen base. Over his career, baserunners have attempted 179 swipes and, on 162 occasions, have been successful (91 percent), the highest success rate against any starting pitcher since 1969.
Straily led AL rookies in games started, innings pitched and strikeouts and tied for the lead in wins last year while allowing He opponents a .233 batting average.