What a 10-day turnaround for Taijuan Walker! And what isn’t working these days for the Mariners, who made it seven victories in a row Tuesday night with an 8-0 romp over the Los Angeles Angels.
Walker flirted with a perfect game into the sixth inning and a no-hitter into the seventh before settling for a three-hit shutout.
It was just 10 days ago that Walker failed to survive a disastrous six-run first inning against these same Angels in a 10-3 loss at Safeco Field. That prompted some serious soul-searching and an adjusted approach.
And now… wow.
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Walker retired the first 17 batters before Cliff Pennington reached on a throwing error by shortstop Ketel Marte with two outs in the sixth inning.
The no-hitter ended when Kole Calhoun opened the seventh inning by grounding a clean single through the right side of the infield. The Mariners led 8-0 at that point.
Walker followed Calhoun’s single by striking out Mike Trout for the third time before Albert Pujols grounded a single through the left side. But Walker retired the next two hitters.
Walker (6-10) struck out 10 and didn’t walk a batter in a 113-pitch gem.
The victory enabled the Mariners to remain 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth with 17 games
Walker had a 2-0 lead before he delivered his first pitch, courtesy of Nelson Cruz’s two-run homer in the first inning.
The Mariners stretched their lead to 4-0 in the second, which included a Nori Aoki homer.
That all came against Los Angeles starter Alex Meyer (0-3), a 6-foot-9 rookie who lasted four innings.
The Mariners doubled their lead on Seth Smith’s grand slam in the sixth inning against Mike Morin. At that point, the attention shifted solely to Walker.
Tellingly, the Mariners went to their defensive alignment prior to the Angels sixth inning with Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel replacing Aoki and Smith in the two corner outfield positions.
Walker got two quick outs in the sixth before Marte bounced a throw that rookie first baseman Dan Vogelbach couldn’t scoop up. Walker ended the sixth by retiring Yunel Escobar on a grounder to third.
The no-hitter ended the next inning.
The Mariners grabbed a quick 2-0 lead on Cruz’s towering two-out homer in the first inning on a 3-1 fastball from Meyer. The ball stayed just fair; even Cruz stared it down before breaking into his trot.
Leonys Martin’s leadoff single led to another run in the second inning. He stole second, went to third on Vogelbach’s grounder to first and scored on Marte’s sacrifice fly.
Aoki’s two-out homer made it 4-0. It was Aoki’s second homer in his past 22 plate appearances. Prior to that, he had one in 391 plate appearances.
Only Trout’s leaping catch on Mike Zunino’s two-out liner to center prevented the Mariners from scoring in the third inning.
Smith’s slam came with two outs in the sixth against Morin after the Mariners loaded the bases on an error, a single and a walk.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Trout took extra bases away from Zunino with a leaping catch after a sprint for the final out in the third inning.
PLUS: Vogelbach got his first big-league hit with a single to right in the sixth inning. ... Aoki reached in three of four plate appearances and scored three runs. ... Cruz had three hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He was a triple shy of a cycle.
MINUS: Marte made a sloppy throw to first base for the two-out error in the sixth inning that ended Walker’s perfect game, although Vogelbach failed to make the catch. ... Robinson Cano went hitless in five at-bats.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners