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Walker becomes youngest Mariner to win debut

HOUSTON -- When Taijuan Walker shut down the Astros for five innings on two hits and one unearned run on Friday, he became the youngest Mariners starting pitcher ever to win his Major League debut.

Walker, at 21 years and 17 days, replaced Travis Blackley, who beat the Rangers in 2004 at the age of 21 years, 240 days. The club's top pitching prospect became just the 11th pitcher in Mariners history to win his starting debut and just the second -- joining Pat Rice in 1992 -- to not allow an earned run in the process.

Erik Hanson is the only other Mariners starter besides Walker and Rice to not allow an earned run in his debut, but he lost his opener in a 2-0 decision to the Twins in 1988.

Walker gave up just a tough-luck double off the glove of left fielder Raul Ibanez and a single that third baseman Kyle Seager couldn't backhand, though he did benefit from excellent defensive plays by second baseman Nick Franklin and center fielder Dustin Ackley.

"He had pretty good stuff," said veteran catcher Henry Blanco, who at 42 was twice as old as his teammate on the mound. "He had all four pitches going good and mixed it up real well. He kept hitters off balance and that's what you've got to do here in the big leagues. He worked ahead of hitters. That was pretty impressive."

Equally impressive was Walker's poise and presence.

"He acted like he'd been here before," said Blanco. "I thought he was going to be nervous the first couple hitters, but he wasn't. He got ahead of hitters and went from there."

Even when his defense let him down with two misplays in the third inning that led to the unearned run, Walker kept focused.

"I don't think it bothered him at all," Blanco said. "You could see right after that, he just kept going after hitters. He deserved the win."

Walker's next start will be Wednesday at Kansas City.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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