MESA, Ariz. — A game prior, Taijuan Walker sliders were missing.
Monday in a 10-6 win over the Oakland Athletics, it was the fastball that wasn’t where it needed to be.
“Not the best today,” Walker said. “Fastball command just wasn’t there today, so just one of those days but I’m glad it’s happening in spring training. It’s one of those things, just bounce back next time. I think that’s the biggest thing: If I can just establish fastball command early, I think everything will work off that.”
Walker had allowed five hits, no earned runs and just one walk in his first nine innings of spring. That spanned three starts.
But in his fourth and fifth, Walker hasn’t found the same success. He first allowed seven hits and three runs in four innings against the Chicago Cubs last Wednesday. The right-hander found trouble earlier in the game at HoHoKam Stadium on Monday, and he eventually allowed six hits and four earned runs with a walk and four strikeouts in 4.2 innings.
Looking to add a slider to his repertoire this spring, Walker added that pitch and his offspeed tosses, in general, were all tuned in early; the slider faded as the game wore on.
“I didn’t throw too many curveballs, probably like to throw more,” he added. “I felt my slider was pretty good early, too, and just kind of got away from that, too. Everything just works off my fastball. It just wasn’t there today.”
One out into the game, the A’s knocked a single before a four-pitch walk by Walker and a double by the Athletics’ Khris Davis gave Oakland a 2-0 lead. Walker allowed another score in the second. With Oakland’s Marcus Semein on second after a steal and stolen base, teammate Josh Phegley lined a hit to center field to put Oakland ahead by three runs.
After clean third and fourth frames, Walker allowed a lead-off single to start the fifth before getting two outs to end his evening. Reliever Zack Godley’s wild pitch scored the fourth run on Walker’s tab.
Walker said he’d like to be able to fight a little longer, even when the fastball isn’t on point.
“He picked up a little momentum in innings four and five and started to drive some pitches through the zone,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “The first couple of innings were a little bit of a drain on him and it was nice to see him work through that, recover and start work towards a better outing.”
— With one earned run allowed through 7.1 innings of work so far, D-backs reliever Tom Wilhelmsen continued his strong pitching. The right-hander went a full frame with one hit, no walks and no earned runs.
— Chris Owings, in right field Monday night, continued showing a powerful bat of late. He recorded two hits on the evening, including a triple that gave him two in his last two games to go with two homers on the spring. Last year, he tallied a career-high 11 triples and also added five homers.
— Bringing the D-backs within 5-3 heading into the seventh-inning stretch, first baseman Kevin Cron launched a two-run shot to left field. He led the team with three RBI.
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