NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Any concerns about how long it might take for Taijuan Walker to be ready for the big leagues were dismissed after Saturday night’s performance at Greer Stadium.
Walker carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning against one of the Pacific Coast League’s best teams and earned the win as the Tacoma Rainiers defeated the Nashville Sounds, 2-1.
Walker’s no-hit bid was broken up with one out in the seventh inning, when Sean Halton singled cleanly to right field.
“He established his stuff early and he kept pounding the zone,” said Tacoma manager Roy Howell. “They kept fouling balls off, which means late-in-the-zone movement (on his fastball).”
After Halton’s hit, he walked the next two batters while protecting a 2-0 lead. Walker then struck out Hector Gomez on a full count for the second out. At that point, he had thrown 94 pitches — 17 more than his previous start, and his longest outing of the season.
Halton’s single eliminated an unfortunate decision that was looming for Howell: the possibility of taking Walker out of the game while a no-hit bid was intact.
“The bottom line is he is on a pitch count,” Howell said. “We’re trying to get him ready to pitch in the big leagues.”
Walker lasted 62/3 innings, giving up one hit and three walks while striking out seven. He was charged with a run when Stephen Pryor threw a wild pitch to allow Halton to score before closing out the seventh inning.
Pryor worked a scoreless eighth, and Todd Coffey earned the save by retiring the side in order in the ninth. Coffey pitched in back-to-back games for his first time in his attempt to return to the major leagues after having Tommy John surgery.
“That’s been in the plans — he has to be able to go back-to-back,” said Howell. “What we saw in his stuff from last night to tonight, there wasn’t much difference. He threw the heck out of the ball.”
Tacoma took the lead in the fourth inning, when Jesus Sucre singled in Gabriel Noriega. Jabari Blash added a long home run in the sixth, his 11th of the season.
Brad Mills took the loss, falling to 4-2 on the season. One of the top starters in the league, he actually lowered his earned run average from 1.57 to 1.56.
Forrest Snow makes his 2014 Tacoma debut in a day game Sunday at 12:05 p.m. (PDT). Nashville is scheduled to start Ariel Pena (4-5, 4.19 ERA). The game can be heard on 850-AM.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.