Taijuan Walker’s promising spring training didn’t translate to the early part of the regular season, but he’s starting to look like the pitcher the Mariners have been waiting on.
Walker tossed seven innings of one-run ball last night as part of a 7-1 win over the Angels. The 22-year-old right-hander gave up a solo homer to Mike Trout in the first inning, but that ended up being the only damage against him all night. He scattered seven hits while walking none and striking out six. Charlie Furbush and Carson Smith combined for a scoreless eighth inning before Fernando Rodney got his first save in nearly a month.
As for the offense, Brad Miller and Nelson Cruz each had RBI doubles while Robinson Cano hit a solo home run. Could Cano finally be heating up? He has two homers over his last four games after hitting just two of his first 67 games combined.
Walker struggled to the tune of a 7.33 ERA and 39/23 K/BB ratio in 43 innings over his first nine starts this season, but he has made massive strides of late, especially with his control. He has 1.91 ERA over his last six starts to go with 44 strikeouts and just three walks in 42 1/3 innings. That’ll work.
Your Friday box scores and AP recaps:
Indians 3, Orioles 4
Nationals 5, Phillies 2
Rangers 2, Blue Jays 12
Braves 2, Pirates 3 (10 innings)
White Sox 4, Tigers 5
Reds 1, Mets 2
Red Sox 4, Rays 3 (10 innings)
Dodgers 7, Marlins 1
Cubs 2, Cardinals 3 (10 innings)
Yankees 3, Astros 2
Twins 4, Brewers 10
Mariners 3, Angels 1
Diamondbacks 2, Padres 4
Mariners 3, Angels 1
Rockies 8, Giants 6
Royals 5, Athletics 2
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.