THE FACTS: The Mariners blew open a one-run game Saturday by scoring six runs in the ninth inning for an easy victory over an Arizona split squad in Scottsdale.
Mariners starter Taijuan Walker pitched out of a second-and-third jam with one out in the second inning after third baseman Kyle Seager committed a two-base error and catcher Jesus Sucre put runners at second and third.
“He showed a lot of poise,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He kept pitching, pounding the zone and did a nice job. I think he’s come a long way from September of last year. I think he’s grown quite a bit.”
Walker has eight scoreless innings in his three starts.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Walker avoided a possible injury by getting his glove on a hot liner back through the box by Cliff Pennington in the third inning.
The ball hit Walker’s glove and caromed into his belt on the right side. He retrieved the ball and fired to first for the inning’s final out.
“Everything’s good,” he said. “It hit the glove and then my stomach…It came in pretty hot.”
Walker didn’t return for the fourth inning — he was scheduled for four innings — but he went to the bullpen and threw roughly 20 more pitches to achieve his targeted workload.
PLUS: Rickie Weeks returned from a two-game absence for a sore hamstring by hitting two doubles in three at-bats…Robinson Cano went 1-for-3 in his first game since the previous Saturday. He spent most of last week in the Dominican to attend his grandfather’s funeral…Left fielder Dustin Ackley made a diving catch on a Ender Inciarte’s sinking liner in the third inning…Yoervis Medina pitched a one-two-three sixth inning and has not allowed a run in 4 2/3 innings over four appearances…
MINUS: Not much, really. Tom Wilhelmsen wobbled through a two-run fifth inning…Kyle Seager had a error in the second inning but atoned with a pair of sacrifice flies…Rafael Perez gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning.
JOB BATTLES: Shortstop now belongs to Brad Miller following news that Chris Taylor will miss four-to-six weeks because of a broken bone in his right wrist…Perez’s bid for bullpen job took a hit when he failed to get through the eighth inning. He has allowed three runs and five hits in four innings over five appearances…Lefty Lucas Luetge, in contrast, worked around a leadoff walk in a scoreless seventh.
QUOTABLE: On working out of a second-inning pickle, Walker said: “Probably two years ago, or at the beginning of last year, guys would get on base, and I’d try to do too much. Get frustrated with guys being on base.
“I’d try to do so much so they wouldn’t score, and that kind of got me in trouble. This year, I’m better at keeping my composure if people get on. I try to work to get ground balls to get easy outs.”
EXTRA INNINGS: Fernando Rodney pitched the fourth inning. He walked a batter and threw only four strikes in 10 pitches but got away clean. Yep, mid-season form…The Mariners drew eight walks, including four in the second inning against Arizona starter Rubby De La Rosa…The Mariners are back to .500 at 7-7.
UP NEXT: The Mariners get a look at the best, well, left-handed pitcher in the game when they face Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Peoria Stadium.
A looming marquee matchup between Kershaw and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez fell through because McClendon plans to have Hernandez face minor-league players on a practice field.
The Mariners will, instead, start lefty Roenis Elias, who is battling Walker for the final spot in the club’s rotation.