Tacoma Rainiers wunderkind Taijuan Walker took the same direct route to open his second start as he did his first.
Three fastballs. Three strikes. One out. Eat it.
Walker (2-0) went five innings and struck out eight Monday night in Tacoma’s 4-1 win over the late-swinging Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
He has thrown 95 innings this season between Double-A Jackson and Tacoma. Walker threw 1262/3 innings last season.
Walker’s not counting, though the Seattle Mariners’ brass likely is.
“I’m just going to keep pitching until they stop me,” Walker said.
A self-imposed test came in the third inning for Walker during his 93-pitch outing.
He walked leadoff hitter Tim Wheeler on four pitches. Walker paid him little heed, which provided Wheeler a gracious path when stealing second.
After walking Hernan Iribarren with two outs, Walker, 20, tussled with the Sky Sox’s No. 3 hitter, Charlie Blackmon.
Blackmon pushed the count full before striking out on a 90-mph cut fastball.
Both Sky Sox hits against Walker were by left-handed hitting Ben Paulsen.
The first, a double to left-center field, the hardest hit ball of the night against Walker, and the second was a single through the right side.
Beyond that, Walker’s infield spent much of the hot evening at ease. With his fastball zipping along at 95 mph, Walker was in control.
Walker’s cutter, change-up and curveball provided just enough scale-tipping.
Those off-speed pitches existed more than dominated the game. They allowed Walker to be fastball heavy without punishment for the largely one-sided approach.
“Today was kind of a bad day for me,” Walker said. “Got away with it.”
He closed with his eighth strikeout. After 11 innings over two Tacoma outings, Walker’s ERA is 0.00. He’s struck out 12, allowed five hits and walked four.
“When you look at the whole package – his body, his mind and his arm, you’re looking at a guy there that has a very high potential,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said.
It wasn’t a strong night just for Walker. Stefen Romero tilted the spotlight toward himself with an enviable all-around game.
Romero picked up hits to right, center and left. His fifth-inning double pushed home Carlos Triunfel for the Rainiers’ second run. Romero scored the Rainiers’ first run in the fourth.
His straight-line throw in the top of the eighth took a bounce before cutting down the potential tying run at the plate. Catcher Brandon Bantz corralled the throw and swung a tag into the charging Charlie Culberson. Culberson was irritated with the call. Bantz and the Rainiers trotted off with their narrow lead intact.
Bantz’s bouncer through a drawn-in infield drove in two runs in the eighth.
Colorado Springs will sends Cory Riordan (4-2, 6.33 ERA) to face left-hander Danny Hultzen (4-1, 2.20) in his second start back from a left rotator cuff strain at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Cheney Stadium.