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In command: Walker continues resurgence

Mariners starter allows one run, no walks in victory over Giants

SAN FRANCISCO-- For a Mariners team that had seen three of its last four starters combine to last just six innings, Taijuan Walker's seven strong innings in Monday's 5-1 win over the Giants was monumental.

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But so is the simple sight of the 22-year-old right-hander doing what the Mariners have been waiting to see, which is be a dominant force on the mound over his past four starts as the youngster has turned things around after a difficult first six weeks.

Walker allowed just one run while scattering seven hits over his seven frames against the defending World Series champs and is now 3-1 with a 1.55 ERA over his last four outings after opening the year 1-5 with a 7.33 ERA in his first nine games.

The reason for the improvement can be detected pretty easily in the walk column of Walker's line scores. He didn't walk a batter Monday and now has 27 strikeouts and three walks in his last four games compared to 39 strikeouts with 23 walks in his first nine games.

"It's all command," manager Lloyd McClendon said of Walker's turnaround. "When you have command of your fastball, you can do other things. And he did that tonight. He threw some real good changeups, some get-me-over breaking balls, a couple real good sliders. But it starts with commanding the fastball."

Walker is learning on the job in his first full year in the rotation and that lesson clearly has begun to stick.

"It's been huge," he said of eliminating the walks. "Getting ahead first pitch has been a big thing and we've been doing it lately. Just attacking. We've been going right after them, not trying to do too much. Not trying to pick the corners, not trying to get strikeouts."

The Giants totaled seven hits against Walker, but without any walks he minimized the damage and pitched with poise when needed as San Francisco went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

"I never saw any panic," McClendon said. "I saw him continue to pound the ball downstairs. He made some quality pitches when he needed to make them."

Walker can light up the radar gun with his mid-90s fastball, but he's learning to mix in a first-pitch changeup enough to keep hitters from being so aggressive early in counts.

"We're not trying to overthrow or do too much," he said. "I think I was doing that early in the season. We're not trying to throw anything harder or be too cute with anything. Just making better pitches."

As a result, the much-heralded youngster is filling a huge role in a rotation operating without the injured Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.

"He's doing a nice job," said McClendon. "He's well on his way. He's certainly not a finished product quite yet, but I like what I see."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Seattle Mariners, Taijuan Walker