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Seattle Mariners
Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Taijuan Walker’s season scrapes bottom as Angels swamp M’s

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais, right, pulls starting pitcher Taijuan Walker after Walker gave up six runs during the first inning  Saturday. (Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais, right, pulls starting pitcher Taijuan Walker after Walker gave up six runs during the first inning Saturday. (Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)
By Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

SEATTLE – Taijuan Walker’s season, which began with such promise, continued its downward spiral Saturday when he failed to make it through the first inning of the Mariners’ 10-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

Walker gave up three homers and six runs while throwing 43 pitches in just two-thirds of a disastrous inning before the Mariners began grinding through their bullpen in absorbing a second blowout loss in three games.

“It wasn’t good,” Walker said. “That’s pretty much it. Really bad all around. I felt really good in the bullpen, and I guess it just didn’t transfer over. I hit the first batter, and I kind of lost focus, and it wasn’t good.”

The Angels hit five homers in all, including two apiece by Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun. And, natch, Mike Trout hit one. That makes seven homers for Trout in 15 games this year against the Mariners.

This was an annihilation, pure and simple. Even worse, possibly, than Wednesday’s 14-1 train wreck at Texas. After all, the Rangers are leading the division. Whereas the Angels are, even now, 15 games under .500.

And this one falls largely on Walker, who sucked the life out of his teammates and the Safeco Field crowd with a crushingly disappointing performance.

“Tonight, he just didn’t have it,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “You can make up all of the excuses you want. He threw fastballs. It wasn’t big velocity, and it got hit – without much of a secondary pitch to complement.”

It’s hard to recall now that Walker began the season by compiling a 1.44 ERA through four dominant April starts. He appeared poised to fulfill his oft-cited potential to take the baton from Felix Hernandez as the staff ace.

Walker appeared to lose his aggressive approach after serving up a game-tying grand slam in early May to Corey Dickerson. Then came a seven-week battle with tendinitis in his right foot.

When Walker returned from the disabled list, for an Aug. 6 start against he Angels, his competitive effort drew criticism from manager Scott Servais and resulted in a brief demotion to Triple-A Tacoma.

Saturday was his third start since his recall and, well, it was a disaster. It was particularly disappointing because Walker pitched well in his previous start despite losing to the White Sox in Chicago.

The bottom line is Walker is 4-10 with a 4.60 ERA, which amounts to a dropped baton.

“It’s been frustrating all around, the whole season,” Walker said. “I started off (well), and everything felt fine. I got hurt and, after that, things just kind of went up and down.

“I’d have a couple of good starts, and then a couple of bad starts. It hasn’t been consistent. It’s been frustrating.”

The Mariners’ glimmering postseason hopes took another hit, too. They fell five games behind Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth with 27 games remaining.

“It’s getting more difficult,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz acknowledged. “Everybody knows what we need to do. Today was a rough one. It was kind of hard to come back. But we have a lot of games to go.

“You still stay positive.”

Los Angeles starter Tyler Skaggs (3-3) wasn’t particularly sharp. He gave up homers to Franklin Gutierrez and Cruz in his six innings but … just say he had a lot of rope to work with.

Walker’s first pitch hit Yunel Escobar in the left hand – and Escobar left the game, replaced by Cliff Pennington.

Calhoun then battled Walker through a 13-pitch at-bat, which included eight straight foul balls, before driving a two-run homer to right field.

And it was all downhill from there.

Calhoun’s homer meant Trout couldn’t hit a three-run homer in the first inning at Safeco Field for the fourth time in five games. He settled instead for a solo blast to center.

Either way, the Angels again led 3-0 just three batters into the game.

Pujols followed with a no-doubt drive to left for another homer.

Third baseman Kyle Seager made an errant throw on C.J. Cron’s grounder before Walker finally recorded an out, a force at second, on Jefry Marte’s grounder to third.

Andrelton Simmons made it 5-0 with an RBI double into the left-field corner before scoring on Carlos Perez’s line-drive single to center. Walker struck out Kaleb Cowart, but Pennington pulled a double to right.

That, finally, was enough.

“It was over before it really got started,” Servais said. “They do have a good-hitting club over there, but (Walker) didn’t have much on the ball, and he didn’t make any real adjustments to try to find it.”

Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte replaced Walker and retired Calhoun on the first pitch, which ended the inning. Venditte later served up homers to Calhoun and Pujols in his 4 1/3 innings as the lead climbed to 10-2.

It seemed even worse.

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