It was one of those evenings at Safeco Field where it was so beautiful that you just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the picturesque skyline and sunset that was right in front of your eyes. It’s what makes Safeco Field and Seattle one of the best settings in all of baseball to watch a game, and it sure made for a good setting for Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker who had it going on the hill Friday night.
Walker made his first start against the Cleveland Indians in his young MLB career and turned in a dazzling performance — the best of his career, in my opinion. The tall right-hander twirled eight innings of shutout baseball and gave up just two hits while striking out eight and walking not a single Indians’ batter. It was just one of those nights for Walker who really needed a start like this to get back on track after a brutal start to the season.
Cleveland could manage just two hits off of Walker from Nick Swisher in the fifth and Jason Kipnis who led off the game with a single. Aside from that, they didn’t see a three-ball count all night. Walker faced just one over the minimum through eight innings and couldn’t be touched.
Walker usually goes to his nasty 12-6 curveball that is around the mid-70s, but tonight, he got a lot of swings and misses on fastballs up in the zone that topped out around 98 MPH. It was one of those nights for the 6’5” starter that reminded Mariners fans why this guy was such a hot prospect coming up through the minor leagues. The potential is definitely still there as was very evident Friday night.
It wasn’t just Walker putting on a show, however. Trevor Bauer toed the slab for the Indians and turned in a performance that kept the Tribe in the game throughout. He lasted seven innings giving up two runs on eight hits while striking out 10 and walking three. He made one mistake that came back to bite him, when Seth Smith hit a two-run shot to right field in the bottom of the sixth. Aside from that, he was able to leave Mariners on the bases and pitched a solid ballgame for Cleveland.
But, as always in a save opportunity, it was time for the “Fernando Rodney Experience” in the ninth inning. After getting two easy outs to start the ninth, Rodney walked Jason Kipnis, which was followed by an RBI triple by pinch hitter Ryan Raburn to make it 2-1. Michael Brantley was next up, but Rodney was able to escape this one as Brantley popped out to end the ballgame and Rodney was able to shoot the arrow for the 14th time this season.
Mariners closer Fernando Rodney has been quite a roller coaster this year as he has an ERA of 7.18. Manager Lloyd McClendon isn’t too worried however about that high ERA.
“ERAs mean noithing when it comes to closers,” McClendon said. “What matters is whether or not you can get it done and close the game out.”
I guess that is working for the Mariners as Rodney has only blown five saves since joining Seattle prior to last season. It would have been a shame if Rodney had ruined an outstanding performance by Taijuan Walker Friday night at Safeco as he really needs to step up his game a bit with starter James Paxton heading to the DL with a strained finger on his throwing hand.
Walker shined on the hill while a blast from Seth Smith was all that was needed on this night for the Mariners who celebrated with a boom as fireworks lit up the Seattle night sky following a picturesque setting for this wonderful game we call baseball.