Taijuan Walker didn't do anything different in his longest outing of the year Saturday night. He simply performed his usual tricks better.
The Mariners' top prospect carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and struck out seven as as Triple-A Tacoma held on for a 2-1 victory at Nashville.
Making his fourth start in the Pacific Coast League after shoulder issues limited him to two outings prior to May 28, Walker was in vintage form at Greer Stadium. Behind a confident and lively fastball, he faced just one over the minimum through five innings, thanks to a walk to Caleb Gindl in the second. He also pitched with a man aboard in the sixth when Pete Orr reached on an error by second baseman and No. 8 Mariners prospect Chris Taylor, but neither runner moved past first base.
"Especially because my fastball is my best pitch, that's the one pitch I want to make sure that I have and can throw any time for a strike," Walker said. "In my bullpen tonight, I was working on fastball command just to make sure I had it and could get ahead with that and throw my off-speed and get swings and misses with my curveball and changeup."
While throwing 57 of 94 pitches for strikes, Walker (1-1) worked past the fifth inning for the first time this season. In addition to the seven strikeouts, the 21-year-old right-hander recorded three outs on the ground and seven in the air.
"I think I felt the fastball pretty well tonight. I used it a lot," he said. "I was pounding the zone with that and making them put the ball in play, and I got the strikeouts when I needed them. I wasn't really going for the strikeouts or anything, so they kind of just came on their own."
Jesus Sucre helped his batterymate's cause in the fourth when his two-out single scored Gabriel Noriega with the game's first run. Jabari Blash extended the lead in the sixth with a solo homer, enabling Walker, Sucre and the Rainiers bullpen to focus on a budding gem.
"[Sucre] caught me a lot last year, so I'm comfortable him," Walker said. "He's comfortable with me and he always calls a good game. Whatever he throws down, I'm pretty much going to throw."
With one out in the seventh, Sean Halton laced a single up the middle to break up Walker's no-hit bid and give the Sounds life. After walking Jeremy Hermida and Caleb Gindl to load the bases, Walker struck out Hector Gomez to end his night. Although Stephen Pryor allowed a run on a wild pitch, he fanned Kevin Mattison for the final out of the frame.
Pryor alsop pitched the eighth before handing off to Todd Coffey, who earned his first save of the season with a perfect ninth.
"It was a good team win," Walker said. "It was a close game, our hitters battled to score two runs and our bullpen came in to shut it down."
Nashville's Brad Mills (4-2) took the loss after giving up two runs -- one earned -- on six hits and two walks while striking out seven six innings.