Tuesday’s 8-0 Mariners win over the Angels had a little something for everyone. Pitching, homers, some sloppy play, but, most importantly the M’s showed they are a team on the move as they kept pace with the Wild Card leaders and edged closer to the Tigers and Yankees, the next two teams ahead of them in the playoff chase.
Taijuan Walker carried the heavy burden of high expectations on him all season, and mostly misfired from May through August. Last night, Walker threw his best game of the season: nine innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits, no walks and 11 K’s. For a guy who couldn’t get out of the first inning two starts ago against these same Angels, Walker has come very far, very fast. His performance solidifies an improving rotation at just the right time.
If you’re all about the dingers, Tuesday night’s game offered three for your inspection. Nelson Cruz hit his 36th off youngster Alex Meyer in the first inning to give the M’s the early lead. It was a 426 foot mortar shot into the left field stands that somehow Cruz managed to keep fair.The Mariners manufactured a run in the 2nd, when Leonys Martin led off with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on Dan Vogelbach’s first big league hit. Ketel Marte scored Martin with a sacrifice fly.Nori Aoki followed Marte with a line drive homer to right center field. As Walker cruised, setting down every Angels batter, the M’s loaded the bases in the sixth and watched Seth Smith unload them with a grand slam to right field, 8-0 M’s.
With the M’s safely ahead, and Walker seeming to pitch the best game of his career, the only question left was the unspoken words of all baseball fans-could I be witnessing history? Walker was perfect through 5 2/3’s innings, but a sloppy throw by Marte and missed scoop by first baseman Vogelbach led to an error and the Angels first baserunner, Kaleb Cowart. The next batter was out, and Walker’s march through the Angels offense continued. Kole Calhoun singled to end the no-hitter seventh, but Walker finished up the shutout on 113 pitches.
The Mariners seventh straight win leaves them only a half game behind Detroit and New York in the Wild Card chase, and 2.5 games behind Toronto and Baltimore, the current AL Wild Card leaders. Tonight they play their final game of the season against the Angels before heading home Friday to open a three game series against the Astros. Scheduled starting pitchers are Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Jhoulis Chacin.