Taijuan Walker performed his own tricks on “Magic Night” at Aces Ballpark. On a night when magicians from local casino acts performed between innings, Walker played a little Houdini himself, escaping three nasty jams with double-play grounders.
Despite allowing 11 base runners in five innings, Walker surrendered just two runs and earned the win in Tacoma’s 7-3 victory over Reno.
“Did he stand out there and punch out 10? No,” said Tacoma manager Roy Howell. “But he was efficient with his pitches, and when he got in trouble he really beared down and got some double plays to get out of innings.”
The double play was seemingly at Walker’s command on Friday night.
First and second, nobody out in the first inning? Bouncer to the mound for two quick outs.
First and second, one out in the second? Tailor-made double play grounder to shortstop.
Bases loaded and one out in the third? Easy second-to-short-to-first double play to end the inning.
After throwing 62 pitches and allowing two runs over the first three innings, Walker coasted through the next two and was relieved after five innings and 90 pitches. He allowed seven hits and three walks, with just one strikeout, but those double plays saved him.
Walker (4-1) pitched with a lead the entire game, as Tacoma scored two runs in the top of the first inning before Xavier Avery lined a two-run homer in the second to make it 4-0.
Chris Taylor doubled home a run in the fourth inning — one of his four hits on the night — and Jesus Montero also had an RBI double. Montero chipped in with a mammoth solo home run in the ninth for an insurance run.
Tacoma has won the first two games in Reno, and has won five of its past six. The team is 22-11 since June 12.
“It’s clean play,” said Howell. “Guys are playing hard and being efficient, and the pitchers are throwing strikes. It’s called team baseball, and right now we’re playing really well.”
Tacoma (48-50) is two games back of the .500 mark for the first time since the club was 20-22 on May 20.
Reliever Logan Bawcom threw 25 pitches in a simulated game on Friday. He has been on the Tacoma disabled list since June 13 with a strained oblique. ... Rehabilitating Mariners left-hander James Paxton is expected to start one of the games of Tuesday’s doubleheader against Las Vegas at Cheney Stadium.
Tacoma sends Jordan Pries (6-5, 3.46 ERA) to the mound on Saturday night at 7:05 in Reno. The Aces are slated to start Mark Serrano (1-0, 4.91).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.