Walker outduels Bauer in 8-K gem to knot series
SEATTLE -- A taut pitcher's duel broke out between the Indians and Mariners on Friday night at Safeco Field, and one swing of the bat proved to be the difference in Seattle's 2-1 victory.
A two-run home run by Seth Smith off Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning, and young Mariners starter Taijuan Walker did the rest of the work for his team, going eight innings and striking out eight without walking a batter in his best performance of the season.
Walker was electric from the get-go. Mixing 97-mph fastballs with 75-mph curves, he was able to rebound from a leadoff hit by Jason Kipnis in the first inning and retire the next 13 batters, facing the minimum until a Nick Swisher single in the fifth. After that, Walker got the next 10 in a row to seal his gem, and closer Fernando Rodney escaped the ninth after giving up a run on a Ryan Raburn RBI triple.
Bauer was excellent, too. The right-hander gave up nothing but singles until the sixth, but his one-out single to Nelson Cruz was followed by Smith's bolt into the right center field seats. The Indians couldn't muster any run support to get him into the win column, though, and he was left with a tough-luck loss despite 10 strikeouts. It was Bauer's third double-digit strikeout effort this season, and Bauer has given up a total of five earned runs over his last four starts, a span of 29 1/3 innings.
"I thought I threw the ball really well actually," Bauer said. "They hit one ball hard tonight. Seven innings. One hard-hit ball. Ten strikeouts. What are you going to do?"
Indians manager Terry Francona agreed.
"On a lot of nights," he said, "we're sitting here saying he gave us seven really good innings and we're patting him on the back. I don't want to lose sight of that. … There was some bend, but not break. I think he wasn't always efficient, but you look up after seven innings, two runs, we'll take it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sweet-swinging Smith: The Mariners started Smith at designated hitter and batted him in the cleanup role with a lineup that had to be shuffled around with Robinson Cano still out with flu-like symptoms. It paid off in the sixth inning when Smith hit the two-run homer into the seats. More >
"It was a cutter. It was a stupid pitch," Bauer said. "I shouldn't have thrown it. It was the wrong pitch at the wrong time. I should've thrown him a fastball in, but it happens."
Almost isn't good enough: The Indians had a chance to get on the board and put pressure on Walker right out of the chute, but it didn't work out. Kipnis led off the game with a single to left field -- his 49th hit this month -- but Jose Ramirez struck out and Michael Brantley grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Walker proceeded to retire the next 11 batters after the squelched rally and didn't look back.
Showing love for the glove: Seattle defenders did their part in helping Walker shine. Mariners second baseman Willie Bloomquist made a highlight-reel play to end the top of the sixth inning, ranging far to his left to snare a Kipnis grounder and firing across his body to nip him at first. And in the top of the seventh, left fielder Dustin Ackley chased a long Brantley fly ball to the wall and lunged to make a difficult catch.
"The defense was unbelievable," Walker said. "Ackley had a great play and Willie, too."
Last chance: With two outs in the ninth inning, Kipnis drew a walk against Rodney, giving Cleveland some life. The Tribe then turned to Raburn, who drilled a pitch to the wall in right-center field for an RBI triple that trimmed Seattle's lead to one run. Rodney recovered, though, getting Brantley to fly out to end the game and notch a save.
"That kind of came out of nowhere tonight. I'd come up to look at a pitch in the video room and I'd sit down and look and it's like, 'Oh, we have two outs already?' I get to look at three pitches and go out and pitch. It makes for a good rhythm for the game and stuff. Unfortunately, they had two and we had one at the end of the night." --Bauer, on Walker's performance
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager singled in his first at-bat on Friday night and now has recorded a hit in 23 of 27 career games vs. the Indians. He's batted .377 (40-for-106) with 12 doubles, one triple, two homers and six RBIs in those matchups.
Indians: Veteran right-hander Shaun Marcum will aim to get back on track when the Indians face the Mariners in the third game of this four-game set at 10:10 p.m. ET Saturday at Safeco Field. Two starts ago, Marcum turned in a strong effort for the Tribe, but he endured a rocky outing on Monday against the Rangers. In only 2 2/3 innings, the 33-year-old righty gave up seven runs on four hits, including a pair of homers.
Mariners: The Mariners' starting rotation has been hurt by injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and now James Paxton, but Saturday's starter, lefty Roenis Elias, has been huge for the club. Elias was beaten out by Walker for the fifth spot in the rotation in Spring Training, but he has replaced Iwakuma with aplomb, going 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA. Elias faced Cleveland once last year, giving up five runs in six innings and taking a loss on June 28.
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