Taijuan Walker threw eight brilliant shutout innings, allowing two hits, striking out eight and walking none to improve to 2-5.

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On a day when their No. 2 starter joined their No. 3 starter on the 15-day disabled list, the Mariners got an inspiring outing from their No. 5 starter, offering some hope for what could be a tough stretch for a frightfully thin starting rotation.

Taijuan Walker delivered his best outing of the season — the kind of performance the Mariners and their fans have been eagerly awaiting — in Seattle’s 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Walker threw eight brilliant shutout innings, allowing two hits, striking out eight and walking none to improve to 2-5.


Indians @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

“I think he’s taken a step forward in his last two outings,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He worked fast, he threw strikes and worked ahead in the count. He did everything we asked of him.”

His second start was momentarily in doubt when closer Fernando Rodney tested the blood pressure of McClendon and the 32,454 at Safeco Field on a perfect spring night.

Rodney walked Jason Kipnis with two outs and then gave up a triple to pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn to put the tying run at third base.

But as he has done so often in his career and in his time with the Mariners, Rodney found a way out of his self-made trouble, getting Michael Brantley, Cleveland’s best hitter, to fly out to right field to end the game. It was his 14th save of the season.

Friday didn’t start off on a positive note for the Mariners. The team had to place James Paxton on the 15-day disabled list with a strained tendon in his middle finger. Paxton joined Hisashi Iwakuma, who has been out since April 21 with a strained lat and isn’t anticipated back until July at the earliest.

That puts some pressure on Walker to continue to progress, and to also provide results. For much of the season, Walker’s starts have been an up-and-down ride expected of a 22-year-old pitcher in his first full season at the big-league level.

He came into this start with a 1-5 record and 7.33 earned-run average in nine starts this season. The dominating spring training was a memory buried by sub-five-inning starts caused by inconsistent command and spotty secondary stuff. In his last five starts, he’d pitched more than five innings just once.

But none of those problems were evident against the Indians. Walker showed pinpoint fastball command — elevating it for swinging strike threes — while mixing in just enough offspeed pitches and getting some outstanding defensive plays behind him.

“I felt really good,” Walker said. “I felt like I was back in spring form and even how I felt at the end of last year.”

The eight strikeouts were largely finished off with the fastball.

“That was huge,” Walker said of the fastball command. “I feel like that’s part of my game. When I get ahead, I elevate the fastball and get a lot of swings and misses from it. I feel like I was able to do that tonight.”

It’s something that can make Walker unhittable with two strikes.

“When you are throwing 96 or 97 (mph), it’s a very hard pitch to hit, particularly when you can elevate to where you need it,” McClendon said.

Walker outdueled Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who was almost as good, pitching seven innings, allowing six hits while striking out 10 and walking three.

But Bauer made one major mistake in the sixth inning that cost him.

Nelson Cruz singled to left with out and Seth Smith gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead, crushing a 2-1 cutter into the stands in deep right-center for his fifth homer of the season. With Robinson Cano out with the flu, Cruz moved to No. 3 and Smith was inserted into the cleanup spot. McClendon joked to him that he was their “secret weapon” during batting practice.

“You are working aggressive and hoping to get something over the plate,” Smith said of the homer. “You don’t know what it’s going to be, but you just hope you are in a good place for a good swing.”

After being given a lead, Walker retired the side in order in the seventh inning. He got some help from left fielder Dustin Ackley, who robbed Michael Brantley of a sure double with a brilliant over-the-shoulder, lunging catch.

Walker followed that up with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

Walker didn’t get a chance at the complete game after throwing 102 pitches as McClendon called upon the struggling Rodney.

“There were a lot of factors in the decision,” McClendon said. “Obviously 102 pitches, tremendous outing and something to really build on going into his next start. And the fact that my closer is 62 out of 66 had a lot to do with it. I think people forget that.”