Taijuan Walker has not had too much to show for his efforts lately. On Thursday, he knew he had to be even better to get the monkey off his back.
Walker struck out a career-high 12 batters over 6 2/3 innings in the Double-A Jackson Generals' 5-2 win over the Mobile BayBears. It snapped a string of seven straight games without a victory.
MLB.com's No. 5 prospect allowed two runs -- one earned -- on six hits without a walk, throwing 69 of 98 pitches for strikes to earn his first win in almost seven weeks.
"I would say tonight was one of my best starts of the season," Walker said. "I think one of the best things tonight was the zero walks, because I wanted to push that and make sure I had two or less.
"It's always good to get wins, but I'm not really too worried about them. I'm just trying to get better and the wins are going to come. Tonight was a really good team win. We scored early in the first inning and we got some extra runs later on. Catcher Michael Dowd called a great game."
Walker (4-7) had not pitched badly since his last victory May 1. The Mariners' top prospect has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his past seven starts, and he has gone at least five innings in every start except one, when he allowed seven runs over 4 2/3 frames at home to Birmingham.
"Being a competitor, it is a little frustrating, but all you can really do is give your team a chance to win," Walker said. "We have great hitters in our lineup and they swing the bats well all the time."
Selected by Seattle 43rd overall in the 2010 Draft, Walker struck out the side in the first inning before fanning a pair in the second and third frames. He recorded his eighth punchout in the fourth and finished with two more in the fifth and sixth.
It marked the fourth time Walker, now in his fourth year of pro ball, struck out double-digit hitters. The previous three -- all 11-strikeout games -- came in 2011 in Clinton the year he was named the Mariners' Pitcher of the Year.
Mobile struck first against Walker when Ender Inciarte -- who led off the game by reaching on shortstop Chris Taylor's throwing error -- stole home as part of a double steal.
"I picked [Dustin Martin] off first base and he took off for second," Walker said. "The first baseman [Ji-Man Choi] threw down to second, but [Inciarte] was already running. He got a good jump. It's part of the game and those things are going to happen. I really wanted to bear down after that."
They scored again off Walker in the third on consecutive hits by Garrett Weber and Raywily Gomez, but that was as much offense as the BayBears mustered.
"I threw mostly fastball and my fastball command was good," Walker said. "I was able to use that a lot, throw first-pitch strikes and throw in and out. My curveball was on and that was my big out pitch. I threw my cutter to keep them off my fastball, and I also flipped a couple change-ups to lefties."
Jackson right fielder James Jones was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and designated hitter Julio Morban went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Mobile starter Bo Schultz (1-1) allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out four batters over four innings.