After a flurry of moves in which they effectively hoisted a white flag on the 2015 season, the Mariners played as if a division title were on the line Friday night in a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Taijuan Walker tossed a splendid, complete-game one-hitter, Nelson Cruz had four hits, including a home run, and Jesus Montero, recently arrived from AAA Tacoma, drove in a pair of runs as Seattle snapped a four-game losing streak (box score).
After taking a 1-0 lead on Brad Miller’s sacrifice fly in the second, the Mariners iced it with two runs in the fourth on Montero’s RBI double and a second run-scoring sac fly by Miller. The Twins never mounted anything after that against Walker, who won first the first time since blanking San Diego 7-0 July 1.
Cruz’s ninth-inning home run was his 27th of the season and capped a season-high four-hit night. Cruz also doubled in the first and singled in the third and seventh innings. Cruz is batting .314.
Montero’s sixth-inning solo homer was his first in the majors since June 17, 2014 against Eric Stults of San Diego. Montero went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Top prospect Ketel Marte, called up from Tacoma Friday, a shortstop who played second base in place of injured Robinson Cano, went 0-for-4 but drew a ninth-inning walk in his major league debut. Catcher Mike Zunino extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games with a single in the fifth. Mark Trumbo (2-for-4) and Austin Jackson (2-for-4) both had multi-hit games.The Mariners hit 37 home runs in July.
Walker made only one mistake, yielding a fourth-inning home run to Miguel Sano. Otherwise, the Twins did nothing. Walker tied a career high with 11 strikeouts (also June 20 vs. Houston) and set a career high with nine innings pitched. The Mariners are 9-1 in Walker’s last 10 starts. Prior to Walker’s outing, Seattle starters had allowed 21 earned runs in the previous four games.
“I was just having fun pounding the strike zone. I was able to keep them off balance. Zunino did a really good job calling pitches. We were on the same page the whole game. Everything felt really good. Any time we can get a big win like this it’s good” — Walker
“That was his best outing to date. His tempo was outstanding. He was commanding all four pitches, and when you are commanding all four pitches it’s going to be a long night for the opponent. I think he’s still a work in progress, but it’s coming. You can see what he’s going to become. It’s going to be special” — Lloyd McClendon, Mariners manager
Canó (abdominal strain) did not play for the third consecutive game, and Logan Morrison (thumb bruise) also sat out. Both are listed as day-to-day.
The third of a four-game series is Saturday at 4:10 p.m., PT. LHP Mike Montgomery (4-4, 3.20) will throw for Seattle against RHP Kyle Gibson (8-8, 3.48). The series concludes Sunday at 11:10 a.m., PT (RHP Hisashi Iwakuma vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey).