SEATTLE Aside from the mechanical tweaks that needed to be made to solve Taijuan Walker’s recent struggles, there also needed to be a rediscovery of emotion.
Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais wanted Walker to pitch with attitude and anger and show it as he stood on the mound.
Whatever the trigger, Walker discovered one that worked, delivering one of his best performances of the season with eight dominating innings in Seattle’s 5-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night.
Imposing his fastball around the strike zone, Walker matched his career-high with 11 strikeouts, allowing just three hits and winning for the first time since April 25.
“The thing I was most excited about, he had the edge. Emotion,” Servais said. “He was like, ‘I’m the guy and I’m going to take the ball and run with it tonight.’ ”
Walker had lost his previous six decisions after beginning the year 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in the first month of the season. Walker faced only one jam in the fourth inning with runners on second and third and two outs, but struck out Lonnie Chisenhall to end the threat.
The return of Walker to the form he showed in April is an important development. Part of it may have been the opponent. In four career starts against Cleveland, Walker has thrown 28 innings allowing one earned run and striking out 31.
He was overpowering from the start and retired the first nine batters with five strikeouts before Rajai Davis’ single leading off the fourth. Jason Kipnis followed with a single, but Cleveland’s only other hit off Walker was Michael Martinez’s broken-bat single leading off the sixth.
Walker struck out four of his final six batters and received a tremendous defensive play from right fielder Franklin Gutierrez crashing into the wall as he grabbed Juan Uribe’s deep fly ball to end the seventh.
“Just being more intense and just kind of having that edge and going right after them with the fastball and keeping it the whole game,” Walker said.
Overshadowed by Walker’s dominance was one of the best games in Chris Iannetta’s career with two home runs and four RBIs. Iannetta hit a two-run homer in the third inning, added a solo shot in the fifth off Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco (2-1) and had an RBI double in the seventh. It was the second career multi-homer game for Iannetta, the previous coming in 2011, when he was playing for Colorado.
Iannetta’s first home run in the third inning barely eluded the leaping attempt of Davis at the wall in left field. His second homer two innings later left zero doubt and had Cleveland’s outfielders watching the shot estimated at 456 feet land in the second deck in left field. Iannetta had not homered since May 13.
His RBI double off reliever Zach McAllister capped a nine-pitch at-bat and continued a strong stretch over the last seven games where Iannetta is hitting .400 and rebounded from a late-May slump.
“You play a while you’re going to go through stretches where you don’t get results,” Iannetta said. “I was taking comfort in the fact that mechanically and in the cage all my work was great and just keep rolling and eventually it will turn.”
Carrasco pitched well with the exception of Iannetta. Carrasco threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and striking out six.
“I thought he really pitched the guys in the middle of the order very tough,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Iannetta is a strong kid and he left some pitches middle-middle.”
Indians: C Yan Gomes was out of the lineup after leaving Tuesday’s game with a testicular contusion. Francona said Gomes had an ultrasound and was fine, but was sore. … 2B Jose Ramirez was a late scratch from the lineup with a bruised left ankle. He fouled a ball off his ankle in Tuesday’s loss.
Mariners: CF Leonys Martin (hamstring) took part in a simulated game on Wednesday and is set to join Triple-A Tacoma on a brief rehab assignment on Thursday. Seattle can activate Martin from the 15-day DL as early as Friday.
Indians: RHP Josh Tomlin (8-1) is 4-1 in five career starts against Seattle and is 4-0 away from home this season.
Mariners: RHP Nathan Karns (5-2) is 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA in his last eight starts, but lost his last time out allowing seven earned runs against Texas.