Walker got out of a bases-loaded, first-inning jam, going six innings. A year ago those kinds of situations might have unnerved the 23-year-old.
A year ago, Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker might not have made it out of the kind of first-inning jam he found himself in Wednesday, as the Texas Rangers loaded the bases with two outs.
But not only did Walker get through unscathed, but after throwing 30 pitches in the first inning he pitched through the sixth, saving his best for last, hitting a game-high 97 mph on the final batter he faced.
“Taijuan Walker was awesome today,’’ said Mariners manager Scott Servais after Walker allowed five hits and one earned run while throwing 108 pitches. “He really dialed it up late in the game. He had some long at-bats against him in the first inning and we were trying to get him through six just where we are at with our bullpen, and he really stepped up and got some big outs late.’’
Walker gave up a walk, a single and then another walk to load the bases in the first with two outs. But he then coerced Ian Desmond into a ground out to end the inning. The only run he allowed came in the third and after the Rangers escaped an apparent double play when it was ruled Seattle shortstop Ketel Marte had not actually touched second base to force out Delino DeShields.
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But where a year ago those kinds of situations might have unnerved the 23-year-old, Wednesday Walker was able to rally and give the team the innings it needed.
“He really did keep it together,’’ Servais said. “He’s growing up and maturing before our eyes, and he’s got a chance to have a big year for us. It took him a little while — we didn’t see the big fastball until real late. But he dug deep and got a little extra, which was nice to see.’’
Said Walker: “I feel like having a whole year in the big leagues and going through ups and downs have definitely helped in situations like that where I have to keep my cool and make pitches.’’
Walker, though, showed a little emotion as he got the final out of the sixth inning, a ground out by Desmond, with each of his last four pitches measured at either 96 or 97 mph.
“Just fired up,’’ Walker said of his improved velocity at the end. “Really trying to get out of that inning and it definitely helped.’’
Benoit expected back Friday
One reason the Mariners needed Walker to eat up as many innings as he could is that setup man Joaquin Benoit remained unavailable while dealing with shoulder stiffness.
However, Benoit did some throwing before the game and Servais said “he felt very good. … Fingers crossed he will be available Friday night (when the Mariners play the Yankees in New York).’’
Said Benoit: “Everything went well. I hope to be ready in New York.’’
Without Benoit, Seattle again turned to Joel Peralta to hold a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning. That evaporated quickly, though, as DeShields hit a solo homer to lead off the inning. Peralta also gave up a tying home run in the eighth inning on Sunday in a loss to Oakland. It was also the fourth home run allowed by the bullpen during the homestand.
“It’s crazy,’’ Servais said. “They don’t hit doubles, they hit home runs against us. It’s been wild this homestand.’’
Servais said Peralta threw a breaking ball that caught the middle of the plate.
“We’re going to need Peralta,’’ Servais said. “We’re going to give him the ball. But when you come in tie games, or one-run lead there late, you’ve got to be very fine. Mistakes in this league will get you.’’
• Reliever Charlie Furbush, who is on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder biceps tendinitis, will stay in Seattle during the upcoming road trip and continue to throw.