PEORIA, Ariz. -- Young right-hander Taijuan Walker continued his dominant spring for the Mariners by allowing just one run over seven innings and catcher Mike Zunino hit his seventh home run as Seattle beat the Angels, 5-3, on Monday at Peoria Stadium.
Walker, 22, allowed his first run in six Cactus League starts on a second-inning blast by Angels left fielder Matt Joyce, but closed out his day by recording 18 straight outs. He gave up three hits with no walks and five strikeouts, putting his spring ERA at 0.36 with nine hits, four walks and 24 strikeouts in 25 innings. Angels right-hander Nick Tropeano allowed four runs on seven hits in six-plus innings to put his Cactus League ERA at 4.41.
No trouble for Taijuan: Walker saw his spring scoreless streak snapped after 19 innings when Joyce hit a first-pitch home run leading off the second, and the Angels followed with singles by David Freese and Erick Aybar. But the 22-year-old steadied himself with a double-play grounder and strikeout to get out of that inning and proceeded to not allow another baserunner for the remainder of his seven innings. Manager Lloyd McClendon hasn't made it official, but Walker clearly has won Seattle's fifth starting spot and appears poised to make noise as one of baseball's up-and-coming right-handers.
Joyce keeps rolling: There was concern earlier in camp that Joyce wouldn't have enough time to get his timing down for the regular season, after a trio of mild injuries kept him off the field. But since returning from a tight hamstring on March 23, Joyce has been on point. His second-inning homer off Walker -- off the batter's eye in straightaway center field -- was his eighth hit and second home run in 19 at-bats since then. He's struck out only once in that stretch.
Zunino stays hot: The Mariners catcher has established himself as a legitimate power threat with 22 homers last year and seven now this spring. But the 23-year-old batted just .199 last season and manager Lloyd McClendon wants him to be a more-complete hitter, especially in his two-strike approach. Zunino showed again he's making big strides in that area with a two-run double that capped Seattle's three-run rally in the fourth. Zunino battled back from a 1-2 count against Tropeano by working the count full, fouling off a pair of changeups and then driving a third straight change into left field. Zunino added a leadoff homer in the seventh to increase his team-leading RBI total to 13.
Tropeano hangs in: Tropeano, who will likely start the season in Triple-A, gave up three runs in the fourth, starting the inning with three straight singles and then giving up a two-run double to Zunino. The 24-year-old right-hander has been burned by one bad inning in most of his outings, much like fellow young starter Andrew Heaney. He gave up seven hits and one walk in six-plus innings, striking out three.
"He's just continuing on. I still think the one run he gave up wasn't a bad pitch. He threw a good fastball down in the zone and Joyce did a good job of driving it. But altogether today, he had everything working and he was able to keep guys off balance." -- Zunino on Walker
"I wanted to come here and compete, go after hitters and have a good spring and show them I'm ready. And I feel like I've done that." -- Walker
"I thought Nick took a huge step forward. That's the command of counts we were talking about. He did a great job, just a couple of pitches to Zunino he didn't get where he wanted. Outside of that, he did a good job of controlling counts and bringing all of his pitches into the game." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia, on Tropeano's outing
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• The Angels and Mariners will open the season against one another for a second straight year, this time from Safeco Field in Seattle. Last year, the Mariners swept a season-opening three-game series in Anaheim, outscoring the Angels, 26-8.
• With one spring start remaining Saturday against the Rockies, Walker has a chance to break the Mariners' Cactus League ERA record for pitchers with at least 20 innings of work set by Matt Young (0.44 in 1983). Young gave one up run in 20 2/3 innings and then went on to make the American League All-Star team that season.
Up next for the Mariners:Felix Hernandez makes his final spring start when Seattle travels to Goodyear to face the Indians in a 1:05 p.m. PT game. Hernandez, preparing for his eighth Opening Day start, threw six innings of one-run ball in his last outing against the Royals to lower his Cactus League ERA to 5.91 in three starts. The game will be available live only on Gameday Audio.
Up next for the Angels: The Angels' potential Opening Day lineup was on display Monday, but most of the everyday players figure to be en route to Southern California when the Angels host the A's at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Tuesday. Jered Weaver will pitch in a Minor League game so the Angels make sure their Opening Day starter get his innings in. Game time is 1:10 p.m. PT on MLB.TV and Fox Sports West. Lefty Barry Zito will start for Oakland, with Zach Stewart being called up from Minor League camp to start for the Angels.