Tai Walker was unbelievable on Monday night, as the Mariners edged the Astros in Seattle.
Taijuan Walker struck out a career tying 11 batters including the last 6 he faced through the 6th and 7th innings to shut down the Houston Astros and lead the Seattle Mariners to a much needed 3-2 home win to start their 6 game stand at Safeco Field.
From the onset, Taijuan was dealing, taking down the side in the first, finishing the Astros off with the first of his 11 K’s. Thankfully for the Mariners, who are offensively inept, Walker’s counterpart, former Mariner draft pick, Doug Fister had one of his worst outings of his career. When he walked the M’s leadoff batter, Nori Aoki, it was clear that Fister was going to struggle with his control. Saved by a double play to erase the walk, the Astros slinger escaped unscathed.
Despite a shaky 2nd frame for Walker who gave up 2 hits and surrendered only his 3rd walk of the season, and giving up the sole earned run of his otherwise spectacular showing. He kept the damage at a minimum striking out the final two batters of the top half. Fister’s confidence didn’t appear to get a boost as he watched Walker struggle, giving up his 2nd walk of the evening (the leadoff batter again) before uncomfortably getting out of the 2nd.
It was the middle innings though that defined this important late April game. Walker continued rolling through the 3rd, taking down the side in order. Fister on the other hand struggled mightily, giving up a home run to Leonys Martin (the leadoff batter), handing the M’s a 1-0 lead. He also walked 2 more batters in the bottom frame, bringing his tally up to 4 walks for the game.
Walker’s groove in the 4th was only halted by an insignificant double, ending his run of consecutive batters sent packing at 8 before retiring the side. Coming out of the other dugout, to the chagrin of the Houston hurler, Kyle Seager made his day even worse as he hit his 100th career home run (all with the Mariners) to give the home side their first lead of the game. Seager became the 7th player in Seattle Mariner history to his first 100 long-bombs with the club.
In the 5th, an otherwise easy inning, kept the Mariners in the lead with Walker getting out of a small jam with runners at first and second via a bunt single and another double. These would be the last hits the Astros would muster with Taijuan on the mound. For the Astros, things continued to go poorly for the ex-Mariner who allowed his 4th leadoff man to reach base, then give up his 5th walk of the night, capped off by a Robinson Cano single which made Fister responsible for his 3rd earned run. Cano’s RBI knock gave him a team-leading 15th on the young season.
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If the first 5 innings weren’t pleasing enough for Walker and the Mariner faithful, the 23-year-old decided to end his 4th start of the season with fashion. In the 6th and 7th Walker struck out the side, tying his career high of 11 punch outs, including 7 of the last 8 batters going back to the 5th frame. Fister wouldn’t make it as far as his opponent had as he walked 2 more batters in the 6th, setting his new career high for most walks in a single outing with 7
With Walker taken out for the final 2 innings, the Mariner’s had to work with their new set up man, Joel Peralta, replacing the injured go-to pre-closer, Joaquin Benoit who is on the 15-day DL with a right shoulder injury. These generally smooth-flowing final frames made the Mariner fans slightly anxious. Peralta allowed 2 hits, 1 of which brought in a run, before sending down the last two batters he faced heading into the 9th. Things stayed uneasy despite the generally commanding, Steve Cishek taking the ball to finish the game. Cishek gave up 2 hits as well plus a walk, but escaped in the end, not allowing any of those base runners to cross home plate, preserving the Mariner’s win- and getting his 5th save of the month.
The Mariner’s needed this kind of start after completing their last homestand with a 1-5 record. Tomorrow the M’s will look to make it two in a row with Nathan Karns (1-1, 5.28) dueling against the skilled Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 5.28).