CLEVELAND — Taijuan Walker continues to pitch like an ace on the rise after combining Wednesday with the Mariners’ bullpen for a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Walker delivered his third straight quality start by limiting the Indians to one unearned run in six innings. He handed a one-run lead to Joel Peralta to start the seventh.
And the bullpen took it from there.
"I think it kind of starts from last year when I was being aggressive," Walker said. "Attacking early and just having that confidence. Being able to locate my fastball is the biggest thing.
"When I have my velo, or even when I don’t have it, I’m able to locate. The biggest thing is to have a breaking pitch that I can throw for strikes. My curveball has really been keeping hitters off-balance."
Walker (1-0) has allowed three earned runs in 18 innings over his three starts while striking out 14 and walking just two. Finally, he got a victory to reward his efforts.
"It’s impressive," manager Scott Servais said. "You’re starting to see it with guys in scoring position — he bears down a little bit more. You see a little bit crisper stuff. He’s getting comfortable.
"Obviously, his confidence continues to grow. It’s great to see a young guy with that kind of talent."
Walker needed to be in top form because the Mariners managed just three hits against Tribe starter Danny Salazar (2-1) in seven innings. But they got a big two-out hit — something they’ve lacked for much of the season.
Adam Lind led off the second inning with a single, and Chris Iannetta drew a walk before Salazar retired the next two batters.
Nori Aoki then pulled a 2-1 fastball past first baseman Mike Napoli and into the right-field corner. While scored a triple, the Mariners caught a break when right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall mishandled the ball.
"I didn’t think that Napoli would get to that ball," Aoki said. "I always had the triple in mind. I was very happy that I was able to get that clutch hit in that situation. It was still early, but we were able to run with the lead."
Cleveland’s only run against Walker came in the third inning after an two-base error by Lind at first base put runners at second and third with one out. Jason Kipnis then delivered a sacrifice fly.
After Peralta made it through the seventh inning, Joaquin Benoit quickly found trouble in the eighth by surrendering a first-pitch single to Tyler Naquin.
Benoit got a force at second on Jose Ramirez’s attempted sacrifice but moved the tying run into scoring position by throwing a wild pitch. No matter; Benoit escaped by retiring Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor.
Steve Cishek then closed out the victory with a 10-pitch ninth inning that included two strikeouts.
"Lock down," Servais said. "Our older gentlemen came in and did a really nice job. It’s really something to have experience out there. That’s exactly how (general manager) Jerry Dipoto drew it up."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Reliever Joel Peralta slowed the game to a crawl after Rajai Davis replaced Juan Uribe as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning following Uribe’s two-out walk.
"I know (Davis) likes to run," Peralta said. "I know I’ve got to stay aware of him. I got a couple of pick-off signs from the bench. I threw strike one, and I thought, `He’s leaning over there. He’s going for sure.’"
Peralta caught Davis breaking toward second on an attempted stolen base. Peralta threw to first baseman Adam Lind, who threw to shortstop Luis Sardinas, who applied the tag.
The play enabled to Mariners to carry a one-run lead into the eighth inning,
PLUS: Taijuan Walker is 7-0 with a 2.28 ERA over his last 11 road starts. That streak began June 10, 2015, when he beat the Indians 9-3 at Progressive Field…Lind had a single and a walk and a single in four plate appearances. He is 6-for-19 over his last six games after opening the season in a 1-for-17 slump…Nori Aoki’s triple was his second of the season. No other Mariner has hit a triple.
MINUS: Robinson Cano was 0-for-4, which ended his road hitting streak at 16 games…Lind committed his third error in 11 games at first base.
STAT PACK: The Indians were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Mariners pitchers have allowed only three hits in 50 at-bats with runners in scoring position over the last five games…the Mariners won a game with fewer than four hits for the first time since May 27, 2015, when they had three in a 3-0 victory at Tampa Bay…this was just the second time in 14 games that the Mariners didn’t trail at some point.
QUOTABLE: Closer Steve Cishek blew through the Indians on 10 pitches (nine strikes) in the ninth inning.
"I got the ball down. I felt I did the same (last Saturday) in New York. They just hit me a little bit. I had a good fastball today and a pretty decent slider. Just attack."
Cishek gave up two two-out hits to the Yankees before closing out a 3-2 victory.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners