Taijuan Walker’s season, which began with such promise, continued its downward spiral Saturday when he failed to make it through the first inning of the Mariners’ 10-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
Walker gave up three homers and six runs while throwing 43 pitches in just two-thirds of a disastrous inning before the Mariners began grinding through their bullpen in absorbing a second blowout loss in three games.
"It wasn’t good," he said. "That’s pretty much it. Really bad all around. I felt really good in the bullpen, and I guess it just didn’t transfer over. I hit the first batter, and I kind of lost focus, and it wasn’t good."
The Angels hit five homers in all, including two apiece by Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun. And, natch, Mike Trout hit one. That makes seven homers for Trout in 15 games this year against the Mariners.
This was an annihilation, pure and simple. Even worse, possibly, than Wednesday’s 14-1 train wreck at Texas. After all, the Rangers are leading the division. Whereas the Angels are, even now, 15 games under .500.
And this one falls largely on Walker, who sucked the life out of his teammates and the Safeco Field crowd with a crushingly disappointing performance.
"Tonight, he just didn’t have it," manager Scott Servais said. "You can make up all of the excuses you want. He threw fastballs. It wasn’t big velocity, and it got hit — without much of a secondary pitch to complement."
It’s hard to recall now that Walker began the season by compiling a 1.44 ERA through four dominant April starts. He appeared poised to fulfill his oft-cited potential to take the baton from Felix Hernandez as the staff ace.
Walker appeared to lose his aggressive approach after serving up a game-tying grand slam in early May to Corey Dickerson. Then came a seven-week battle with tendinitis in his right foot.
When Walker returned from the disabled list, for an Aug. 6 start against he Angels, his competitive effort drew criticism from manager Scott Servais and resulted in a brief demotion to Triple-A Tacoma.
Saturday was his third start since his recall and, well, it was a disaster. It was particularly disappointing because Walker pitched well in his previous start despite losing to the White Sox in Chicago.
The bottom line is Walker is now 4-10 with a 4.60 ERA, which amounts to a dropped baton.
"It’s been frustrating all around, the whole season," he said. "I started off (well), and everything felt fine. I got hurt and, after that, things just kind of went up and down.
"I’d have a couple of good starts, and then a couple of bad starts. It hasn’t been consistent. It’s been frustrating."
The Mariners’ glimmering postseason hopes took another hit, too. They fell five games behind Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth with 27 games remaining.
"It’s getting more difficult," designated hitter Nelson Cruz acknowledged. "Everybody knows what we need to do. Today was a rough one. It was kind of hard to come back. But we have a lot of games to go.
"You still stay positive."
Los Angeles starter Tyler Skaggs (3-3) wasn’t particularly sharp. He gave up homers to Franklin Gutierrez and Cruz in his six innings but…just say he had a lot of rope to work with.
Walker’s first pitch hit Yunel Escobar in the left hand — and Escobar left the game, replaced by Cliff Pennington.
Calhoun then battled Walker through a 13-pitch at-bat, which included eight straight foul balls, before driving a two-run homer to right field.
And it was all downhill from there.
Calhoun’s homer meant Trout couldn’t hit a three-run homer in the first inning at Safeco Field for the fourth time in five games. He settled instead for a solo blast to center.
Either way, the Angels again led 3-0 just three batters into the game.
Pujols followed with a no-doubt drive to left for still another homer.
Third baseman Kyle Seager made an errant throw on C.J. Cron’s grounder before Walker finally recorded an out, a force at second, on Jefry Marte’s grounder to third.
Andrelton Simmons made it 5-0 with an RBI double into the left-field corner before scoring on Carlos Perez’s line-drive single to center. Walker struck out Kaleb Cowart, but Pennington pulled a double to right.
That, finally, was enough.
"It was over before it really got started," Servais said. "They do have a good-hitting club over there, but (Walker) didn’t have much on the ball, and he didn’t make any real adjustments to try to find it."
Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte replaced Walker and retired Calhoun on the first pitch, which ended the inning. Venditte later served up homers to Calhoun and Pujols in his 4 1/3 innings as the lead climbed to 10-2.
It seemed even worse.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Kole Calhoun’s 13-pitch at-bat, which ended in a two-run homer, set the tone in the Angels’ six-run first inning against Taijuan Walker.
"He battled," Walker said. "I made some good pitches. I feel that even the home run wasn’t a bad pitch, but he just really battled and got a home run of it."
It came after Walker hit Yunel Escobar with the game’s first pitch. Walker fell behind 3-1 on Calhoun, who then fouled off eight straight pitches before launching a two-run homer to right.
PLUS: Franklin Gutierrez had a homer and a single in three at-bats. He has eight hits in his last 20 at-bats and six RBIs in his last seven games…Ben Gamel reached base three times for his second straight game. He had a single and two walks. Gamel also made two web-gem diving catches — on Cliff Pennington in left field in the fourth inning; and on C.J. Cron in right field in the ninth inning.
MINUS: Taijuan Walker’s troubles were covered above…third baseman Kyle Seager committed his 20th error of the season with an off-line throw in the first inning after fielding C.J. Cron’s grounder. Seager’s previous career high was 16 errors a year ago. He had only eight in 2014 when he won a Gold Glove.
STAT PACK: Robinson Cano’s double in the first inning was his 30th of the season. He is the only player in history to get at least 30 doubles in each of his first 12 seasons and only the fourth in history to do so in any 12 consecutive seasons. The others are Stan Musial (15 seasons), Tris Speaker (12) and Honus Wagner (12). All three are in the Hall of Fame.
QUOTABLE: Manager Scott Servais found a silver lining in outfielder Ben Gamel, who reached base three times as the leadoff hitter and made two diving catches.
"I’m really excited by what I see out of Ben Gamel, which is great," he said. "That’s what you need, especially in the batter’s box. That’s certainly a plus, what we’ve seen out of him the last couple of nights."
SHORT HOPS: Angels third baseman Yunel Escobar left the game after being hit in the left hand by Taijuan Walker on the first pitch of the game. X-rays showed nothing more than a painful bruise…Albert Pujols has 55 multiple-homer games, which ties him with Ken Griffey Jr. and Jimmie Foxx for eighth place on the all-time list…Nelson Cruz’s homer in the fourth inning against Tyler Skaggs was his 15th of the season against a left-handed pitcher, which leads the majors.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners