Walker pitches complete-game gem for Tacoma Rainiers

Well that was fun.

Taijuan Walker was on the mound for the Rainiers on Tuesday, and the Mariners top prospect pitched like it, throwing a four-hit complete game shutout to beat the Oklahoma City RedHawks, 2-0, at Cheney Stadium.

“That felt awesome,” Walker said. “I’ve thrown a complete game before and let a few runs in, but this is my first shutout. It was great for me, and I was able to save the bullpen. They’ve been working hard, so it was good.”

Walker threw 109 pitches, 75 of which were strikes. He finished the night with four hits allowed, one walk, and eight strikeouts in his first career shut out.

He established his fastball early, which a scout said was consistently in the mid-to-upper 90s, and then started to work in his other pitches to the rotation.

“My fastball, it was good tonight. Once I had that going, I was able to start going to my change-up and slider, and I started hitting my cutter too,” Walker said.

Run support wasn’t an issue for Walker. Justin Smoak, on rehab assignment from the Mariners, hit a double in the first inning and scored when Xavier Nady launched a two-run blast in the next at-bat.

It was all the help Walker needed. The RedHawks only put a runner in scoring position once, on a double by Domingo Santana in the second. But a strikeout and two straight groundouts ended the threat.

The 21-year old had a rough go his last start on June 18 against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, lasting only five innings. The Walker who pitched Tuesday looked nothing like him.

“You’ve got to pitch and not throw,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “He worked on a few things mentally, on his approach of how he was going to attack the strike zone and when and where he would throw his pitches.”

Drafted in 2010, Walker has been up and down this season coming off an impingement in his shoulder that kept him out of the Mariners lineup this season. He has made five starts for the Rainiers this season and has a 4.54 ERA.

“When you’ve got a guy throwing like that, the best thing is to just sit back and enjoy it,” Howell said. “He did a lot of things well tonight, and showed why he’s a top guy.”

On Tap:

The Rainiers have a rare off day Wednesday, and then travel to El Paso, Texas, to take on the Chihuahuas on Thursday. Tacoma will match up right-handed pitcher Matt Palmer (1-4, 4.76 ERA) against fellow righty Donn Roach (0-1, 3.57 ERA). The game can be heard on 850-AM.