SEATTLE — Whatever ailed Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker over his streak of seven winless starts, the Cleveland Indians proved to be the perfect elixir Wednesday night at Safeco Field.
Walker worked eight scoreless innings and matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts in a 5-0 victory while continuing his dominance over the Indians.
"The thing I was most excited about is he had the edge," manager Scott Servais said. "Emotion. He was like, `I’m the guy. I’m going to take the ball and run with it.’ Great outing."
Oh, Walker had help. Chris Iannetta hit two homers and drove in four runs, and the Mariners backed Walker (3-6) with a number of sparkling defensive plays. Mostly, though, he simply overmatched the Indians.
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Walker is 4-0 in four career starts against Cleveland while allowing just one earned run in 28 innings. That converts to an 0.32 ERA.
"He beats us with velocity," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "and then he threw a split that came off at the same angle as his fastball. Not sure what he was doing with these other teams but he’s just really impressive.
"We’ve seen him four times and tonight might have been the best."
So the Tribe was just what Walker needed after going 0-6 with a 5.77 ERA in his previous seven starts. He also provided the Mariners with a fourth straight quality start.
The Mariners’ rotation had allowed 67 runs in 71 innings over its 13 previous games before Hisashi Iwakuma limited Texas to one earned run Sunday in seven-plus innings.
"The starting pitching had been in a little slump," Walker said. "Kuma in the last game in Texas picked us back up. Then (James) Paxton and Wade (Miley). We knew we had to pick it up and we did."
Walker limited the Indians to three hits, all singles, and didn’t walk a batter. Nick Vincent completed the Mariners’ fifth shutout with a scoreless ninth inning.
Iannetta had a career game. It was the second multi-homer performance of his 11-year career. When he added an RBI double, it marked his second career game with three extra-base hits.
"When baseball is going well, and we’re winning," Iannetta said, "it’s the best thing. It’s so much fun. It really is. When it’s going bad, when you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, it’s hell.
"You try to enjoy the times it goes well and try to forget the times when it’s not."
Iannetta’s first homer was a two-run wall-scraper in the third inning, but the second was a howitzer blast into the upper deck. Both came against Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco who, otherwise, handcuffed the Mariners.
Walker escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the fourth inning and benefited from some sparkling defensive plays.
Second baseman Robinson Cano went to the left side of second to field Lonnie Chisenhall’s one-out grounder in the second. Cano made his typical sidearm flick to first for the out.
Third baseman Kyle Seager ran down Michael Martinez’s two-out foul pop in the third. Seager made the catch at the railing to the Indians’ dugout.
But right fielder Franklin Gutierrez topped them all with a leaping catch into the wall on Juan Uribe’s two-out drive in the seventh inning. Walker simply lifted his cap and held it aloft in appreciation.
"He still has it," Walker said.
Carrasco (2-1) exited after Ketel Marte’s two-out single in the seventh when Indians manager Terry Francona opted against a third match-up against Iannetta.
Zach McAllister replaced Carrasco and…well, he kept Iannetta in the ballpark. After two steals by Marte, Iannetta drove an RBI double over the head of center fielder Tyler Naquin.
That run also was charged to Carrasco, who gave up four runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings. The Mariners led 4-0 and added a final run in the eighth inning against Joba Chamberlain.
"We haven’t seen that (Walker) since April," Servais said. "Give a lot of credit to Mel (Stottlemyre Jr.) working on some things and trying to get him to figure out who exactly he is.
"Tonight what you saw was a very aggressive (pitcher), attacking with the fastball on the upper edges of the strike zone. He’s tough to hit."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco was cited for an illegal pitch on his 1-2 offering to Kyle Seager in the fourth inning. Seager grounded out to first base.
The umpires huddled, following a protest by manager Scott Servais, and determined Carrasco delivered the pitch with his foot not on the rubber. Seager got another chance.
It didn’t matter. Seager hit the next pitch for a squibber in front of the plate. Catcher Chris Gimenez made the throw to first for the out.
PLUS: Nori Aoki stole second base after getting hit by a pitch in the third inning. He is now 4-for-11 in attempted steals…Ketel Marte stole second and third without a throw in the seventh inning with Tribe reliever Zach McAllister on the mound.
MINUS: The Mariners’ four-five-six-seven hitters — Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Adam Lind and Franklin Gutierrez — were a combined 0-for-15 with an intentional walk.
STAT PACK: Chris Iannetta recorded the second multi-homer game of his career. The other was May 28, 2011 while playing for Colorado in a 15-4 victory over St. Louis at Coors Field in Denver. Iannetta also had three extra-base hits for only the second time in his career. He had two doubles and a homer on May 18, 2015 for the Los Angeles Angels in 10-6 loss at Toronto.
QUOTABLE: Mariners starter Taijuan Walker acknowledged he pitched with a fire that had been lacking in his recent starts.
"Yeah, just being more intense," he said. "Having that edge and going right after them with the fastball. Just keeping (that approach) the whole game."
SHORT HOPS: Catcher Yan Gomes was "still sore," according to Indians manager Terry Francona, one day after suffering what was officially characterized as a "testicular contusion" when hit by a foul tip off the bat of Dae-Ho Lee…the Indians scratched second baseman Jose Ramirez from the lineup because of a bruised left ankle suffered Tuesday when he fouled off a pitch.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners