Walker's gem lifts Mariners at Angel Stadium
ANAHEIM -- Taijuan Walker pitched seven innings of one-run ball and the Mariners' scuffling offense did just enough against the Angels' Matt Shoemaker to capture a 3-1 win at Angel Stadium on Friday night.
Walker scattered seven hits, but didn't walk any batters and struck out six. The 22-year-old right-hander has given up just nine runs in 34 1/3 innings this month, dropping his ERA from 6.18 to 4.64.
"I think it's just been a growth period," manager Lloyd McClendon said after Walker improved to 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA over his last six starts. "I said early on, with a young pitcher like Walker there was going to be some ups and downs and there were going to be some struggles along the way. But eventually he would get it and make us all proud. And I think he's starting to do that."
Mike Trout launched his 19th home run to straightaway center field in the first inning -- projected by Statcast™ to land 415 feet away -- but the Angels' struggling offense couldn't build off that and the club fell to .500 for the 18th time this season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mariners double down: Seattle ripped four doubles off Shoemaker -- two by shortstop Brad Miller, one by Mark Trumbo and another by Nelson Cruz. Miller's second two-bagger tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth, and Cruz's shot down the right-field line gave Seattle a 2-1 edge in the sixth. Trumbo's double was just his second extra-base hit -- and first double -- in 18 games since being acquired from the D-backs and he scored on Miller's fifth-inning hit. Cruz's double was his first this month as he snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a 2-for-4 night.
Coming up short: The Angels entered the weekend series with the second-fewest plate appearances with runners in scoring position and failed to capitalize on a couple of key opportunities. With runners on second and third and one out in the sixth, David Freese struck out and Matt Joyce flied out. With runners on first and second and one out in the eighth, Johnny Giavotella bounced into a double play.
"Guys are working hard, doing everything they can to find their groove and what they need to do," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of an offense ranked 23rd in the Majors in runs per game. "Some guys have been doing well offensively, and obviously some guys still need to get in their game."
Cano show heating up: Robinson Cano has struggled through a tough first half, but the six-time All-Star continued his warming trend with a home run off Fernando Salas leading off the eighth to give Seattle a 3-1 lead. The blast was projected by Statcast™ to land 434 feet away. Cano still is batting an uncharacteristic .246 with four homers and 24 RBIs on the season, but he's hit .333 (10-for-30) with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs over his last eight games.
"I've been hitting the ball hard, a lot. But just right at guys," Cano said. "All you can do is keep swinging. But it's not about hitting homers. It's about getting another run, especially against the Angels. They're a dangerous team. That's a team that can come from behind any time." More >
The Shoe fits: Shoemaker's outing was pushed back a couple of days so he could work on commanding his fastball and locating his pitches down in the zone. And he did just that in his 14th start. The Angels' starter gave up only two runs in six-plus innings, exiting with one on, none out and just 80 pitches in the bottom of the seventh.
Shoemaker said he was working on "getting my upper half and lower half working together. When I do that, I pitch better, and I feel like I did that tonight." More >
"I just thought in the eighth inning that was probably the biggest moment in the game with those two big monsters coming up. Smitty [Carson Smith] had handled them very well in the past and I wanted that guy in the game at that particular time. I didn't anoint Carson closer and I'm not saying that Rodney is going back to being closer. I'll continue doing what we've been doing to this point, put the best guy in there I think gives us the best chance to win a ballgame." -- McClendon, on his decision to have Smith face Trout and Pujols in the eighth and have Fernando Rodney get the save in the ninth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Walker's turnabout for the Mariners is no mystery if you look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio. He opened the season 1-5 with a 7.33 ERA when he had 23 walks and 39 strikeouts after nine starts. He's gone 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his last six starts, thanks in large part to his allowing just three walks compared to 44 strikeouts. More >
Aybar exited midway through the top of the seventh with tightness in his left hamstring, the same ailment that forced him to miss a couple of games in late May. The Angels' shortstop, who entered the weekend series batting .260/.302/.304, laid down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the sixth, then came out for defense before being removed. Scioscia said "it's just a little tightness" and that "there isn't any extra concern. We just have to make sure we stay on top of it."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
McClendon challenged a bang-bang play at first when Aybar threw out Austin Jackson for the third out in the third inning. Had Jackson been safe, Miller would have scored from third to tie the game at 1-1. But after a three-minute review, the call was allowed to stand.
The Angels lost their challenge an inning later, on Aybar's potential triple. The Angels' shortstop hit a liner into the right-center field gap, but Trumbo played it well off the wall and Cano made a strong relay throw to third to barely get Aybar after a feet-first slide.
Mariners: Left-hander J.A. Happ, seeking his first win since May 9, gets the start in Saturday's 4:15 p.m. PT contest at Angel Stadium. Happ is 0-3 with a 4.24 ERA over his last eight outings. The Mariners have lost his last five starts while scoring just seven runs. Happ is 0-3 with a 9.82 ERA in three career starts vs. the Halos.
Angels: Garrett Richards will oppose Happ in search for his fourth June win. The 27-year-old right-hander gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning at Yankee Stadium on June 6, but has since posted a 2.25 ERA in three starts. Richards has a 2.45 ERA in 55 career innings against the Mariners.
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