Walker will use All-Star break to regroup

Walker will use All-Star break to regroup

SEATTLE -- Heading into the All-Star break after what manager Lloyd McClendon called "our worst game of the year" -- a 10-3 loss to the Angels -- young starting pitcher Taijuan Walker figured it was a good time for a few days off.

He'll head to New York during the four-day interim to do a little sightseeing and take some time to think about things other than baseball before joining back up with his teammates for Friday's series opener at Yankee Stadium. But while Walker absorbed his first loss since June 3 on Sunday, he's certainly been one of Seattle's first-half highlights with his impressive turnaround.

Walker gave up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits in five-plus innings against the Angels to fall to 7-7 with a 4.84 ERA, but he didn't get much help from his defense -- including his own critical miscue when he threw away a sixth-inning sacrifice bunt to open the door to a six-run Angels rally -- and he threw better than the final result indicated.

Walker struck out seven with no walks and now has racked up 51 strikeouts and just four walks over his past nine outings, during which he's gone 6-2 with a 3.03 ERA.

"It was one of those days," Walker said. "I felt like I had really good stuff and everything was working well. But I just had that throwing error in the sixth, and it kind of went downhill from there."

Walker was kind enough to overlook errors on second baseman Robinson Cano and left fielder Mark Trumbo that also contributed to the struggles. His manager wasn't as generous.

"It was a combination of everything," said McClendon. "It was a bad game. It was 10-0 in the eighth inning. You can call it mental, physical, whatever. It was absolutely a horrible game for us."

But Walker said he's heading into the All-Star break with confidence, despite Sunday's result. After starting out the year 1-5 with a 7.33 ERA in nine starts, he finished the half strong and is ready to see where that takes him.

"I struggled a lot in the beginning and then kind of turned it around," Walker said. "Now I just feel real confident. Even giving up a couple runs, I still feel confident going out there going six or seven. Early in the season I'd give up a couple runs and then kind of fold, but I'm feeling real confident in myself and [catcher Mike Zunino].

"We have a good game plan and I'm still getting better. My secondary stuff is getting better. I'm pounding the zone and not walking anybody and that's a huge plus. If I can take my stuff into the second half that I've had lately, I should be fine."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.