Sharp Walker leads Mariners over Rangers

Sharp Walker leads Mariners over Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Young right-hander Taijuan Walker allowed just one unearned run over seven innings on Monday night to pick up his first victory of the season as the Mariners topped Texas, 3-1, at Globe Life Park.

The 22-year-old Walker opened the season with two rough outings, but has given up just one earned run in his last two starts and improved to 1-2 with a 6.86 ERA as he scattered six hits with one walk and five strikeouts. After a 55-minute rain delay, Seattle jumped to an early lead and Walker did the rest as the Mariners (8-11) opened a 10-game road trip on the right foot.

"I thought his last start was real good and I said I thought he'd build off of it," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I think our pitching is starting to catch on. They're starting to get a little competition between each other and one wants to out-do the next one. And that's a good thing. That's the key to us getting on a roll, real good pitching."

Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo gave up two runs in a 35-pitch first frame, but steadied himself and wound up allowing three runs on three hits in six innings. The Rangers fell to 7-12 with the loss and still have yet to win two games in a row this season.

"That first inning I was just trying to do a little bit too much, trying to overthrow instead of just staying within myself and making pitches down in the zone," Gallardo said.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Cruz's RBI single

Cruz keeps cranking: Leave it to Nelson Cruz to get the Mariners going in his old stomping grounds. Seattle was 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position over its previous four games until the former Ranger rifled a run-scoring single into right field in the first inning as Seattle jumped to a 2-0 lead on Gallardo. Cruz increased his Major League-leading RBI total to 21 and is now 6-for-8 with two homers in his career vs. Gallardo. More >

Banister on offensive woes

Choo misses chance: The Rangers' closest thing to a big inning off Walker came in the fourth, when Texas scored a run on Brad Miller's throwing error and then had runners on second and third with two outs. But Shin-Soo Choo, who has been moved to seventh in the order amid a rocky April, grounded out to second base to end the inning. After going 0-for-4 on Monday, Choo's averaged dipped to .096. More >

A leading man: McClendon put Justin Ruggiano into Seattle's leadoff spot for the first time and the veteran outfielder walked and scored twice as he filled in for Austin Jackson in center field. Ruggiano manufactured a key run in the fifth when he worked a two-out walk -- ending a streak of 12 straight outs by Gallardo -- then stole second and scored on Seth Smith's single to right to give Seattle a 3-1 lead. More >

Smith's RBI single

Rangers can't turn two: Twice in the pivotal first inning, the Rangers failed to convert potential double plays that might have prevented Mariners runs. First, second baseman Rougned Odor had trouble getting the ball out of his glove on a grounder and his hesitation forced the Rangers to settle for a force at second for the game's first out. Later, Kyle Seager hit a grounder to first; Mitch Moreland fielded the ball and fired to second, but shortstop Elvis Andrus threw the ball away as he attempted to get Seager at first for the third out. A run scored on Andrus' error.

"We didn't handle the baseball the way we should," Banister said.

QUOTABLE
"Any pitcher that has that kind of arm, they want to trust it. But when you get here, you feel like you have to pitch more. I think he has to stick with his strength. The cutter was better because of that pitch and the changeup was better. The more you can establish the fastball, everything is going to be better." -- Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, on the importance of Walker building off his mid-90s heater.

"We don't want to give other teams more than three outs an inning. There have been some cases that we've done that. We do want to play crisp defense. We want to handle the baseball and we want to be able to throw the ball to the bases in an elite manner. And we haven't done that. We're continuing to work on it and I believe we're going to get there."-- Banister, on the team's defensive problems this season

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Mariners reliever Carson Smith came in with a runner on second and a 3-1 lead in the eighth and retired Adrian Beltre on a comebacker to the mound to end that threat. Smith has yet to allow a run in the first 19 appearances of his Major League career, which is a club record. The hard-throwing right-hander has 17 1/3 scoreless innings since his call up last September. The Mariners record for scoreless innings to open a career is 17 2/3 by Mark Lowe in 2006.

WHAT'S NEXT
Mariners: Veteran lefty J.A. Happ has been strong in his first three starts for Seattle (1-1, 2.61 ERA) and now gets another shot at the Rangers, who pinned him with his lone loss when he allowed two runs in seven innings in a 3-1 defeat on April 17 at Safeco Field. The middle game of the three-game series starts at 5:05 p.m. PT at Globe Life Park.

Rangers: Ross Detwiler is hoping some extra days off and some adjustments to his delivery will help him improve after he struggled in his first three starts as a Ranger. The lefty is 0-2 with a 10.95 ERA, but for now, the Rangers have told him his spot in the rotation is safe. Detwiler allowed five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in his last outing, a loss at Seattle on April 19. He'll face the Mariners again at 7:05 p.m. CT in Arlington.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.