There are moments when Max Scherzer looks like the dominant pitcher the Detroit Tigers hope he can be — such as the second inning against Seattle, when he struck out the side.
Then there are those stretches when Scherzer can't find the plate and can't keep hitters off the bases.
"I was falling behind, and you can't pitch in the big leagues if you do that," Scherzer said. "I need to get stuff in the zone earlier in the count."
Scherzer struggled through five erratic innings, and the Detroit Tigers lost to the Mariners 7-4 on Tuesday night. Alex Liddi had a career-high three hits, including a solo homer, and Seattle snapped a four-game losing streak.
Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila homered for the Tigers, but it wasn't enough to overcome an early 4-0 deficit. Michael Saunders drove in three runs for Seattle.
Jason Vargas (3-1) pitched six innings for the Mariners, allowing four runs and six hits. He struck out four and walked one. Three relievers finished, with Brandon League pitching a hitless ninth for his sixth save.
Scherzer (1-2) allowed five runs and 10 hits. He struck out six and walked two.
"His stuff was unbelievable, he just couldn't control it," said Avila, Detroit's catcher. "That's what we need to do — get him to a point where he's got this stuff and gets into a groove. We've seen what he can do when he pitches like that."
Liddi's homer — his first of the season — made it 6-4 in the seventh. The Italian-born third baseman made his debut last September and had only one two-hit game before Tuesday. He singled in the first and fifth before his home run.
Scherzer labored through a 25-pitch first inning, allowing an RBI single by Jesus Montero to open the scoring.
The right-hander appeared to steady himself, fanning Saunders to end the inning and striking out the side in the second, but the Mariners scored three in the third. Kyle Seager drove in a run with a single, and Saunders added a two-run double.
"Scherzer's command wasn't good," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "The command isn't consistent and he's got to fix that. Some guys have a tougher time repeating their deliveries, and maybe he is one of those."
Detroit's Brennan Boesch hit an RBI single in the bottom of the third, and Avila made it 4-3 with a two-run homer the following inning — a 432-foot shot into the shrubbery over the wall just to the right of dead center field. Prince Fielder was on base for that home run after hitting an infield single. His comebacker bounced off Vargas and toward the line between home and third, and the big Detroit slugger hustled down to first.
But the Tigers could never pull even. Miguel Olivo hit a run-scoring groundball in the fifth for Seattle before Cabrera answered with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning. Then Liddi restored a two-run advantage.
Cabrera and Fielder started the bottom of the eighth with singles off Tom Wilhelmsen, but Ichiro Suzuki made a jumping catch in front of the wall in right-center on Delmon Young's flyball.
"I just looked up and saw Ichie make this grab and was like, 'Thank God he's out there,'" Wilhelmsen said.
Cabrera went to third on that out, but Jhonny Peralta struck out looking on a breaking ball. After a passed ball allowed Fielder to move to second as the tying run, Avila struck out swinging.
Saunders hit an RBI double in the ninth.
NOTES: Detroit RHP Al Alburquerque (right elbow surgery) was transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. ... Opponents are hitting .475 on balls in play off Scherzer this season, according to STATS, LLC. ... The Mariners were playing the opener of a 10-game road trip. ... Leyland remained stuck on 1,598 wins, one victory shy of catching Tommy Lasorda for 17th on the career list. ... Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (1-1) takes the mound Wednesday night against Detroit LHP Adam Wilk (0-2).