ANAHEIM, Calif. — The last time Taijuan Walker faced the Los Angeles Angels, he had one of his worst starts of the season.
He made some changes to his mechanics, and on Tuesday night he had one of his best outings — of his career.
Walker pitched a three-hitter for his first career shutout as the Seattle Mariners beat the Angels 8-0 to win their season-high seventh straight.
“It starts with Taijuan Walker and ends with Taijuan Walker,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He looked like a guy out there who had a fear of no one.”
Walker (6-10) was perfect through 5 2/3 innings before Kaleb Cowart hit a grounder to shortstop Ketel Marte, who threw wild to Daniel Vogelbach at first base. Vogelbach couldn’t pick the low throw and Cowart reached safely on an error charged to Marte.
Kole Calhoun ended Walker’s no-hit bid with a leadoff single through the right side in the seventh inning. Only two balls left the infield until Calhoun’s single. Walker matched a career high with 11 strikeouts — the fifth time he’s reached that mark. It was his first complete game since July 31, 2015.
“My legs were getting heavy, my stomach was starting to tingle,” Walker said. “The game was so long, it was taking forever. The offense was going out there every single inning and getting hits and I was just like, ‘Ugh, this is getting longer.’ But right after I went out there and gave up the hit I felt really good. I got a chance to go from the stretch and I feel really good going from the stretch.”
In his last start against Los Angeles on Sept 3, Walker gave up five earned runs in only two-thirds of an inning, his shortest start of the season. It was then that Seattle pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre approached Walker with the idea to change his mechanics for the last month of the season.
“It was night and day the way we faced him up in Seattle a couple weeks ago,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He had good stuff, good command. He pitched a good game for them.”
The results of his altered mechanics were best illustrated by his success against Mike Trout. The MVP candidate was hitting .818 with three home runs and six RBI against him coming into the game.
Trout struck out in all three at-bats.
“With three weeks left in the season, it’s kind of weird to change mechanics,” Walker said. “But we’ve been out there and really trying to hammer it home and get it down.”
Nelson Cruz and Norichika Aoki hit home runs and Seth Smith hit a grand slam to close the scoring. Cruz was a triple away from the cycle when Mike Freeman pinch-hit for him in the ninth.
“They said, “It’s going to be hard to get a triple,'” Cruz said. “But they need at bats. I’ll let the kid hit.”
Angels rookie Alex Meyer (0-3) gave up four earned runs and five hits over four innings in his fourth major league appearance.
Smith’s grand slam, his second this season, came off of reliever Mike Morin with two outs in the sixth. He drove Morin’s 1-1 off-speed offering over the scoreboard and into the right field stands.
The Mariners hit Meyer — acquired from Minnesota along with Ricky Nolasco at the trade deadline — hard from the beginning. Cruz launched a massive two-run shot that nearly reached the concourse in left field in the first inning and Leonys Martin scored on sac fly in the second before Aoki’s home run, making the score 4-0.
Angels: SS Andrelton Simmons remained out of the lineup for the second straight day with a bruised right hand. Simmons injured the hand in Sunday’s series finale against the Rangers and is day-to-day. . LHP Tyler Skaggs will miss his start with left forearm soreness and will undergo an MRI. Skaggs had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and was slated to make his 10th start.
Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma will take the mound in the series finale. Iwakuma has lost his last two straight starts against Los Angeles but is 8-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) against the Angels.
Angels: RHP Jhoulys Chacin will take Skaggs’ place in the rotation. Chacin will come out of the bullpen to make his 14th start of the season. He’s 3-6 with a 6.54 ERA as a starter.