White Sox continue to struggle, fall to Mariners 4-3

CHICAGO (AP) — Mike Zunino knew the ball hit the sweet spot. He just wasn’t sure at first if it would clear the wall.

Zunino homered and scored twice to back Felix Hernandez in the Seattle Mariners’ 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

Chicago’s Yoan Moncada hit his first career leadoff homer . But at 5-16, the White Sox are off to their worst start since 1950.

Zunino doubled and scored in a two-run third and gave the Mariners a 4-3 lead with an opposite-field, solo drive to right against James Shields in the sixth.

“The rhythm, the timing’s, the biggest thing and that’s what’s gonna come,” Zunino said. “Obviously, that’s where I’m trying to drive those fastballs. It’s tough on a day like today when you have Shields (who) can mix it up so well, add that really slow curveball and was able to locate it just below the zone. But I was just able to try to battle, get in a good count and get a good pitch to hit.”

Nelson Cruz added three hits, including two RBI singles.

Hernandez (3-2) settled down after giving up the homer to Moncada and a double by Yolmer Sanchez on his first two pitches. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner went six innings, scattering three runs and seven hits while striking out six and walking two.

“After the first inning, I was in better command, making better pitches,” Hernandez said. “I had a good curveball, had a good sinker.”

James Pazos worked a perfect seventh. Juan Nicasio struck out all three batters in the eighth, and Edwin Diaz tossed a one-two-three ninth for his 10th save in as many chances.

The bullpen also dominated in Tuesday in a 1-0 win, with Marco Gonzales and four relievers combining on a five-hitter.

Shields (1-3) went six innings, allowing four runs and six hits. The right-hander is 0-3 in four starts and five appearances since a season-opening win at Kansas City.

Yolmer Sanchez doubled, singled and scored two runs for Chicago. The White Sox lost for the 14th time in 16 games.

“We don’t want to lose, ever,” Shields said. “No matter what the situation is, we’re all competitive in this clubhouse, so we all want to win. The effort level is definitely there, but things just aren’t going our way.”