CLEVELAND -- Given the way Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker and Indians starter Danny Salazar were dealing on Wednesday, one misstep was likely going to be the difference. Salazar wound up on the wrong side of the equation and Seattle claimed a 2-1 victory at Progressive Field.
For the third straight outing, Walker spun a quality start for the Mariners, limiting the Indians to one unearned run on three hits in six innings. The righty struck out six, walked none and did enough to make Salazar's lone hiccup hold up as the decisive blow.
"That was outstanding pitching from both sides tonight," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "We certainly had our hands full with Salazar. I tip my hat to Taijuan Walker. What a great outing. He really stepped up in a game where we had no room for error."
With his performance, Walker lowered his season ERA to 1.50 and picked up his first win of the season. Salazar finished the day with an equally impressive 1.47 ERA, but he walked away with a hard-luck loss. His only setback came in the second inning, when Norichika Aoki delivered a two-out, two-run triple.
Salazar ended with seven strikeouts and three walks issued in his seven innings -- an outing that might have been enough on any other night. This time around, though, Cleveland's only production off Walker came via a sacrifice fly from Jason Kipnis in the third.
"I thought both starters were good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Two young, good right-handers. The inning they scored their two ... [Salazar] fell behind 2-1 to Aoki, tried to go down and away with a fastball, ran over the middle and he hooked it. Those are their runs. And they made it hold up."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Aoki dokie: Aoki was acquired to be a tablesetter for the Mariners' offense, but the veteran leadoff man drove in a pair of runs with a big two-out triple in the second as he pulled a 2-1 Salazar fastball down the right-field line to score Adam Lind and Chris Iannetta. Aoki was 2-for-18 on the road trip before hitting his second triple in the past three games.
"I'm very happy to get that clutch hit in that situation," Aoki said through translator Antony Suzuki. "It was still early, but we were able to run with the lead. Taijuan did a great job holding down their hitters for six innings. And after the sixth inning, our relievers were perfect. The credit goes to the pitchers."
Zero effect: Following Aoki's big knock, Seattle did not record another hit against Salazar, going 0-for-16 with two walks after the three-base hit in the second inning. Salazar collected four strikeouts, induced six groundouts and created six flyouts in that span. Seattle had two runners aboard in the sixth, but the pitcher struck out Iannetta to escape the threat.
"I have to give credit to him. He got a triple," Salazar said of Aoki. "With the guys before, I was getting behind in the count. Plus, a walk. So, that was my fault, because I got in trouble and then I just gave up that triple." More >
Walker minimizes lone rally: The young Seattle right-hander only allowed more than one baserunner in one inning, but he helped himself in that third frame. After Juan Uribe laced a leadoff double to left, Walker fielded a high comebacker to the mound by Tyler Naquin, turned quickly and caught Uribe in a rundown off second. That eliminated the lead runner and made things a little less traumatic when Lind couldn't snare Jose Ramirez's shot down the first-base line that resulted in a two-base error. Kipnis drove in the unearned run with his sac fly, but Walker ended that frame by getting Francisco Lindor to ground out.
"I thought it was a good pitch [to Uribe]," Walker said. "I went fastball in twice, but I saw they started cheating on the fastball in. But I got the outs and kept the team in the game." More >
Stealing an out: With two outs in the seventh, Uribe drew a walk and Francona sent the speedy Rajai Davis to first base as a pinch-runner. On an 0-1 count to Naquin, Mariners reliever Joel Peralta fired a throw to first base, catching Davis too far off the bag. Seattle executed a textbook rundown, tagging out Davis to end Cleveland's attempt at a rally.
"Those things [happen] when you're trying to be aggressive, which he was," Francona said. "Peralta kind of gave him a good [move] -- kind of dropped his head. The idea was he was going to be aggressive. I know it probably doesn't look great, but the idea was for him to be aggressive there."
"He's got velocity, offspeed, athletic. He's good. He's kind of how we feel about Danny. I'm sure that's the same way they feel about him." -- Francona, on Walker
"He ended up getting to second in the inning on a wild pitch, but, you know, in a game like that, you need to do every little thing, because we were having such a tough time." -- Francona, on Jose Ramirez's botched sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning
"Lockdown. Our older gentlemen came in and did a really nice job. It's really something to have experience out there. And [Steve] Cishek is really stepping up. It was probably one of his more dominant outings this year." -- Servais, on his bullpen trio of 40-year-old Peralta, 38-year-old Joaquin Benoit and closer Cishek slamming the door in the final three innings.
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Salazar recorded at least one strikeout in each of his first six innings against the Mariners, but he did not have a punchout in the seventh. That ended a unique streak for the hard-throwing righty, who has 23 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings this season. Prior to the seventh, Salazar had notched at least one strikeout in each of his first 18 innings this season.
Walker now has a 0.45 ERA in three starts against the Tribe over the past two years, with one earned run in 20 innings.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners: Right-hander Nathan Karns (1-1, 4.50 ERA) starts the 9:10 a.m. PT series finale on Wednesday at Progressive Field. The 28-year-old topped the Yankees by allowing one run in five innings last Friday while scattering five hits and four walks. He was 1-1 with a 2.38 ERA in two starts against the Tribe last year with the Rays.
Indians: Righty Cody Anderson (0-1, 5.91 ERA) is slated to take the ball for the Tribe in the finale of this three-game series with Seattle. In his last outing, Anderson allowed five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Mets on Friday. The big right-hander yielded three home runs as part of the uncharacteristic performance.