LOS ANGELES (AP) Taijuan Walker continued to command the strike zone and excel with runners in scoring position, which helps explain why the Seattle Mariners' 22-year-old right-hander has reeled off four straight wins.
Walker pitched seven sharp innings Friday night, leading the Mariners to a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Robinson Cano's home run and RBI doubles by Nelson Cruz and Brad Miller.
''I think there's just been a growth period for Taijuan,'' manager Lloyd McClendon said. ''A young pitcher like Walker was going to have some ups and downs and there were going to be some struggles along the way. But we knew that eventually, he would get it and make us all proud.''
Walker (6-6) scattered seven hits, struck out six and walked none in his first career start against the Angels, stretching his streak of consecutive innings without allowing a walk to 21 1-3 spanning 87 batters. Opposing batters are 2 for 26 against Walker over his last seven starts.
''I'm just attacking the hitters because I don't want to give them any free passes,'' said Walker, who gave up his only run on Mike Trout's 19th homer in the first. ''Tonight I was just going right after them with the fastball and I was working off that.''
Fernando Rodney got three outs for his 15th save in 18 chances and his first since May 29. The right-hander, who set a franchise record last season with 48, got his first save opportunity since being demoted from the closer role.
Carson Smith, who had been closing this month, gave up a single to Trout and a walk to Albert Pujols in the eighth before retiring Johnny Giavotella.
''I just thought that in the eighth inning, that was probably the biggest moment of the game,'' McClendon said. ''They had two big monsters coming up, and Smitty had handled them pretty well in the past. So that was the guy I needed in the game at that particular time.''
Matt Shoemaker (4-6) allowed two runs and seven hits in six-plus innings, working on six day's rest after getting two extra days to improve his fastball command. The right-hander is 2-6 with a 5.16 ERA in his last 12 starts since opening the season with consecutive road wins over the Mariners and Texas Rangers - and 0-5 with a 4.82 ERA in his seven home starts.
''With that extra time off, I just worked on a few more things - just getting my upper half and lower half working better together,'' Shoemaker said. ''When I do that, I can see my pitches better and I felt like we did that tonight. I just had a few bad breaks. But I kind of got my timing back, which was really positive.''
The Mariners took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Austin Jackson led off with an infield single and came all the way around on Cruz's one-out line drive over the head of Pujols at first base and into the right field corner.
Los Angeles mounted a threat in the bottom half when Trout led off with a single and Pujols was hit with a pitch just above the left elbow. Erick Aybar's bunt advanced the runners, but David Freese struck out and Matt Joyce flied out on the next pitch. The Angels have stranded 54 base runners over the last six games, going 4 for 35 with runners in scoring position during that stretch.
The Mariners opened the seventh with singles by Seth Smith against Shoemaker and Miller against Cesar Ramos. Mike Zunino advanced the runners with a sacrifice after Fernando Salas came in from the bullpen, but Shoemaker got Jackson to ground into a double play after an intentional walk to Logan Morrison.
''He throws strikes and has a little bit of an aggressive approach, so you've got to get something up that you can handle,'' said Mark Trumbo, who grounded into an inning-ending double play in with two on the sixth. ''He mixed it up really well, kept the ball down and got a couple of big double plays.''
Salas gave up Cano's fourth homer of the season leading off the eighth.
Mariners: LHP J.A. Happ (3-4) is 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in his last three starts after five consecutive no-decisions. In three career starts against the Angels, he is 0-3 with a 9.82 ERA.
Angels: RHP Garrett Richards (7-5) has allowed two earned runs in 29 1-3 innings over his last four starts against Seattle and is 2-0 in those games.