SEATTLE -- Taijuan Walker returned to the mound in impressive fashion following his recent run of foot troubles and he brought his friends with him as the Mariners flashed some impressive defense in a 5-3 win over the Orioles on Thursday.
Center fielder Leonys Martin made two outstanding plays -- one with his glove and one with his arm -- to help Walker keep the hot-hitting Orioles in check. Walker picked up the win by allowing four hits and one run over 6 1/3 innings, just his second victory in his last 11 starts as he improved to 4-6 with a 3.29 ERA.
"That's the guy we saw earlier in the year," manager Scott Servais said. "We just hadn't seen him in a while."
But Servais was even happier that Walker didn't win this one on his own, as not only Martin, but Seth Smith and Kyle Seager delivered outstanding defensive plays and the Mariners brought a strong offensive plan against longtime nemesis Chris Tillman to close out a 10-18 June on an up note.
"We showed up ready to play tonight," Servais said. "We had some discussions before the game about our intensity level and where it needed to go. We know how our season has gone to this point, but there's a story yet to be written, is the way I look at it.
"The discussions I had with our veteran group today, they understand where we're at. We need to play well and get this thing going in the right direction leading into the All-Star break, and see where we are at that point."
Case in point, in Servais' mind, were the plays by Martin, as he helped Walker out by running down a deep drive to center by Mark Trumbo in the second, and then flashed his impressive arm strength by fielding Manny Machado's fourth-inning drive off the wall and unleashing a bullet to cutoff man Ketel Marte, who fired to first to catch Machado trying to scramble back.
"He's a dynamic center fielder," Servais said. "But you have to finish plays. He didn't finish a couple over the week. He got there and didn't catch 'em. Tonight he did. And that's the difference between the good players and the great players. You've got to do it consistently."
Walker certainly appreciated the support, as Martin helped keep the bases clear for four innings before the Orioles finally got their first runner on with a Matt Wieters single in the fifth.
"Leonys, man, he was bailing me out with a couple nice plays," Walker said. "That was huge. No runners on, so I felt good from the windup. Anytime they hit the ball out there, you just know he's going to catch it and give his best effort on it. As a pitcher, that feels good."
Smith, who ripped a two-run homer in the fifth, provided another key catch in the eighth to help reliever Joaquin Benoit when he ran down J.J. Hardy's drive into the left-center gap.
"The catch was probably more impressive than the homer," Servais said. "He covered some ground."
Smith said he didn't know if he was going to get to Hardy's shot, but pulled it in with a last-second lunge. He was less surprised by Martin's heroics in center.
"Early in the season, before he hurt his hamstring, he was doing that pretty often," Smith said. "Now to see him doing it again is a good sign for us."