Taijuan Walker became the first Mariners pitcher this spring to work five innings — and he made it look easy Saturday afternoon before Kansas City rallied for a 5-4 victory in Surprise, Arizona.
“The game plan was to attack with the fastball and get ahead,” said Walker, who gave up one run and four hits. “I was getting ahead, and they weren’t really doing anything with the fastball besides two pitches, maybe.
“Other than that, they were late on the fastball, so we just stuck with the fastball on the first pitch and mixed the change-up and breaking ball in from there.”
The Mariners (9-9-2) also played a split-squad game Saturday night against an Arizona split squad at Peoria Stadium. Felix Hernandez was slotted for four innings in his second start.
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Walker gave up a leadoff homer in the third inning to Jorge Bonifacio but little else in an efficient 57-pitch performance.
The Mariners jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning when Kyle Seager and Seth Smith delivered RBI singles, and Jesus Montero added an RBI double.
Joe Wieland pitched two scoreless innings after replacing Walker before giving up four runs in the eighth. He allowed four hits and a walk, although two singles were balls that probably should have been caught.
“Joe really threw the ball well,” manager Scott Servais said. “If that’s the kind of (pitching) depth we have, we’re in a really good spot.”
Logan Moon’s two-run double scored the tying and go-ahead runs for the Royals.
PLAY OF THE GAME: The Royals had a runner at first with one out in the third inning when Walker handled a hopper to the mound by Omar Infante and turned it into an inning-ending double play.
PLUS: Seth Smith went 2 for 3 after missing four games because of tightness in his left groin. He is batting .545 (12 for 22) in nine games. …Kyle Seager had an RBI single in a three-run first inning and went 2 for 4, which boosted his average to .323 (10 for 31) in 11 games.
MINUS: Chris Taylor struck out in all three of his at-bats. The first one came with runners at second and third with one out in the first inning. He has nine strikeouts in 30 at-bats. … Luis Sardinas was hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts. … The Mariners were 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
STAT PACK: The Mariners, in their “control the zone” mantra, are closely tracking the strikeout-and-walk rates for both pitchers and hitters. They entered Saturday night’s game at plus-33 through 20 games.
They track the number by combining the totals. So far this spring, the hitters had 130 strikeouts and 66 walks for a net minus-64. The pitchers had 147 strikeouts and 50 walks for a net plus-97.
Combine the totals and get a net plus-33.
Servais said the goal is to end the regular season with a plus number and noted the Mariners had, in their 39 previous seasons, only once posted a winning record without a plus number in combined strikeouts and walks.
QUOTABLE: Taijuan Walker threw just 57 pitches in five innings.
“That’s what you want,” he said. “That’s how you go nine innings. Quick easy outs and put them away when you get two strikes.”
UP NEXT: The Mariners follow up their long Saturday by playing Cleveland at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Peoria Stadium.
Lefty Wade Miley is scheduled for a five-inning start with Mayckol Guaipe, David Rollins and Steve Cishek also tentatively scheduled to pitch.
The Indians list left-hander T.J. House as their starter.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners