SEATTLE — While it was Dae-Ho Lee’s walk-off homer Wednesday that seized the moment, the other notable development was a strong outing by right-hander Taijuan Walker in a game the Mariners needed to have.
Walker limited Texas to one tainted run over six innings before Lee’s launched his two-run shot in the 10th inning for a 4-2 victory.
“Taijuan Walker was awesome,” manager Scott Servais said. “He really dialed it up late in the game. They ran some long at-bats against him in the first inning. We were trying to get him through six because of where we’re at with our bullpen.
“He really stepped up and got some big outs late.”
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Walker survived a 30-pitch first inning in a 108-pitch effort. He turned over a 2-1 lead to the bullpen, but the Rangers pulled even on Delino DeShields’ leadoff homer in the eighth inning against reliever Joel Peralta.
The Mariners needed a big game from Walker after losing the first five games of their season-opening homestand.
“It was one of those situations,” he said, “where you’ve got to keep everything calm and stick to the game plan. You can’t really go out there and (try) to do too much just because we have a losing streak.
“I’ve just got to go out there and pitch my game.”
Walker even showed some emotion as he barked at umpire Laz Diaz while walking to the dugout after his final inning.
“I just thought it was a pretty good pitch (earlier in the inning),” Walker said. “I saw he was calling it (earlier)…A lot of emotions. I really wanted that pitch.”
This makes two quality starts this season for Walker, who has allowed three earned runs over his 12 innings.
Most impressive, perhaps, was the way he pitched out of trouble in the first inning — when the Rangers loaded the bases by sandwiching two walks around a single — and then by pitching through the sixth.
“He’s growing up and maturing before our eyes here,” Servais said. “He has a chance to have a big year for us. It took him a little while. We didn’t see the big fastball until real late.
“He kind of dug deep and got a little extra, which was nice to see.”
The Mariners are hopeful veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit will be able to return to his eighth-inning duty this weekend in New York.
Benoit threw again Wednesday and reported no lingering soreness in his back and shoulder, an ailment that surfaced in spring training and returned after his one-inning appearance April 8 against Oakland.
“Everything seems OK,” he said. “I’m hoping I’ll be ready by Friday.”
Joel Peralta replaced Benoit when the Mariners carried one-run leads into the eighth inning last Sunday against Oakland and again Wednesday against Texas. Each time, Peralta surrendered a leadoff homer.
“Breaking ball in the middle of the plate (on Wednesday),” Servais said, “and (Delino) DeShields put a good swing on it. We’re going to need Peralta, and we’ll continue to give him the ball.
“But when you come into tie games or with a one-run lead late, you’ve got to be very fine. Mistakes in this league will get you.”
HALTING THE SKID
The Mariners ended their five-game home skid, which was the longest in franchise history at the start of a season. Overall, the five-game home losing streak tied for the 27th-longest in the franchise’s 40 years.
Yep…the Mariners have lost six or more straight home games on 26 occasions. The most recent was a seven-game skid last season from May 30 to June 5 against Cleveland, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay.
The franchise record is 11 straight home losses from Aug. 16-Sept. 10, 1989 against the Texas, Kansas City, the New York Yankees and Milwaukee.
FAN COST INDEX
The cost of attending a game at Safeco Field is lower than the major-league average — and lower than last season — according to Team Marketing Report in its annual Fan Cost Index survey.
TMR calculates its index by adding the cost of four adult average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-sized hot dogs, parking for one car and two of the least-expensive, adult size-adjustable caps.
That cost at Safeco Field is $209, which ranks 17th among the 30 clubs and represents a 1.4-percent decline from last season. The average cost index for all clubs is $219.53.
Fenway Park in Boston has the most-expensive index at $360.66, followed by Yankee Stadium in New York at $337.20 and Wrigley Field in Chicago at $312.32. The least expensive is Arizona at $132.10.
It was 31 years ago Thursday — April 14, 1985 — that Phil Bradley capped a five-run seventh inning with a bases-loaded triple in helping the Mariners to a 5-1 victory over Minnesota at the Kingdome.
The victory boosted the Mariners to 6-0 for their longest winning streak to open a season. All six victories came at the Kingdome.
The streak ended the following day in a 7-4 loss at Oakland, which sent the Mariners into a 1-12 tailspin. They finished the season at 74-88.
Dae-Ho Lee is the third player (and first rookie) in franchise history to hit a walk-off homer as a pinch-hitter. The others were Ken Phelps on Sept. 3, 1986 vs. Detroit at the Kingdome, and Kendrys Morales on June 23, 2013 vs. Oakland at Safeco Field…the Mariners are 15-5 in Taijuan Walker’s last 20 starts…several players are chasing round numbers for career achievements as the Mariners head out for a nine-game trip: Robinson Cano needs 10 RBIs to reach 1,000; Seth Smith needs two homers to reach 100; and Kyle Seager needs three homers to reach 100; the Mariners averaged 26,040 in attendance for their six-game homestand.
The Mariners departed after the game and will spend Thursday’s open date in New York before opening a three-game weekend series against the Yankees in the South Bronx.
Right-hander Nathan Karns (0-1 with a 7.20 ERA) will face New York right-hander Luis Severino (0-1, 5.40) at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time Friday in the series opener at Yankee Stadium.
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners