(SportsNetwork.com) - While Oakland's Sonny Gray was able to work out of trouble to remain unbeaten in his last start, Taijuan Walker's season for Seattle has already featured some rough outings.
Walker looks to rebound tonight and help deal Gray his first loss of the season as the Mariners open up a three-game series with the visiting Athletics.
After some early-season struggles, Walker allowed just one earned run over 12 1/3 innings of consecutive starts, winning once, before his woes returned on Saturday in Houston. The Astros hammered Walker for eight runs -- seven earned -- on nine hits and a walk in three innings of work, with the right-hander serving up three homers to suffer an 11-4 setback in the shortest start of his career.
Walker fell to 1-3 with an 8.74 earned run on the season and his campaign got off to a rocky start with a 12-0 loss in Oakland on April 10. Facing the A's for the first time as a starter and for the third time overall, the 22-year- old was tagged for nine runs on nine hits and two walks in just 3 1/3 innings.
Gray, meanwhile, takes aim at a fourth consecutive winning start this evening while looking to improve to 5-0 on the young season.
Gray has allowed two or fewer runs in all but one of his six outings this season, producing a 1.67 ERA while winning all four of his decisions. The right-hander followed up consecutive wins over the Los Angeles Angels by anchoring a 7-1 victory in Texas on Sunday despite some major control issues.
The talented 25-year-old hurled 6 2/3 scoreless innings of two-hit ball while striking out a season-high 10 batters, but also walked a career-worst seven batters. Gray came into the outing having walked just six batters over his first five outings.
"He finds a way to use what he has on a particular day," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of Gray. "He's worked himself into being a true No. 1 (starter)."
One of Gray's two no-decisions on the season came at home against Seattle on April 11. He was charged with two runs -- one earned -- on six hits over 7 1/3 frames and is 4-1 against the Mariners lifetime with a 2.21 ERA across eight starts. That includes a 3-0 record and 0.98 ERA in four starts at Seattle's Safeco Field.
The Mariners return home following Thursday's off day. They opened up a recent 10-game road trip with a three-game sweep of Texas, but lost six of the final seven games on the swing.
Even worse, Seattle dropped consecutive games to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in walk-off fashion. The Angels got a game-winning solo homer to deal the Mariners a 5-4 loss on Tuesday, then rallied again in the ninth inning in the series' finale.
Seattle looked to be the late-surging team on Wednesday as it tied the game in the top of the ninth when Kyle Seager, who homered earlier in the game, scored on Dustin Ackley's pinch-hit sac fly.
However, the Angels would respond in the bottom of the frame with Johnny Giavotella's RBI double to win the set.
"Baseball is a funny game in a lot of different ways ... It's tough two nights in a row," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.
The Athletics are 3-4 on a 10-game road trip, having just lost three of four to the Minnesota Twins. They committed a pair of costly errors in a 6-5 loss on Thursday.
Ike David homered and drove in two runs, while starter Drew Pomeranz took the loss after giving up six runs -- four earned -- on three hits and five walks over 4 1/3 innings.
"We should be better defensively, and we have to continue to work to be better defensively because it has cost us games," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
The Mariners won two of three in Oakland from April 10-12.