Paxton gave up two runs over six innings, and Cano hit a three-run homer as the Mariners opened a series in Chicago with a 4-2 win.
CHICAGO — The equation for victory isn’t complicated for the Mariners, though it has seemed like an unsolvable problem in recent weeks.
But coming off the All-Star break, they were able to put the numbers together Friday night in a solid 4-2 victory over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Seattle got a usable outing from starter James Paxton, outstanding relief pitching from the bullpen and tallied the magic number of four runs to improve to 44-47. In games where they score four runs or more, the Mariners are now 41-15.
“It was a really, really nice ballgame,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It was a good complete game, and we need to continue to roll with this and keep building on it.”
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Paxton’s outing was competent if not completely efficient. He worked six innings, giving up two runs on five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts. He retired the last eight hitters he faced, striking out four.
“After the first four innings, he was sitting about at 80 pitches and you’re hoping he can get you through the sixth,” Servais said. “We’ve seen it his last few outings, he really dials it up. His stuff was crisper and he got some quick outs.”
It wasn’t anything mechanical. It was just execution.
“I was getting my legs under me a little bit,” Paxton said. “I started to feel better in the fifth and sixth inning. And I got going. I think it’s just an uptick in intensity, and I need to find a way to get to that earlier in the game so I can ride that out longer.”
With Paxton’s pitch count at 103, Servais went to his rested bullpen, happily taking the six-inning outing.
“Our bullpen really lines up great if our starter gets us through six,” Servais said. “We have options with the left-handers we have down there and the different right-handed options. Pax has the ability to get deep. We feel comfortable going 105, 110 pitches, depending on how he’s throwing. But when you’re at four innings and 80 pitches, you are just hoping he can get (six).”
Three of Seattle’s four runs were provided by Robinson Cano, who was fresh off his MVP performance in the All-Star Game.
After Paxton gave up a run in the second, his teammates answered immediately against Sox starter James Shields. Mike Zunino worked a walk and Jean Segura singled to start the rally.
After not taking a swing in his first plate appearance and walking on four pitches, Cano’s first swing since blasting the decisive homer in the 10th inning of the All-Star Game also resulted in a homer. He ambushed a first-pitch cut fastball from Shields, sending it over the wall for a three-run homer and a 3-1 lead.
It was Cano’s 18th homer of the season.
“I saw him a lot when I was in New York,” Cano said of Shields’ time with Rays. “You can see the velocity is not the same. He was a guy that used to throw 93-94 mph. He’s still good and that changeup still moves the same.”
Chicago trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the fourth inning. All-Star outfielder Avisail Garcia singled for the second time off Paxton, stole second and scored on Matt Davidson’s double to left-center.
The Mariners answered the White Sox run with one of their own in the top of the fifth. Segura doubled down the line and scored on a wild pitch from Shields with two outs.
Up 4-2 going into the seventh, the Mariners got stellar relief work from setup men Tony Zych and Nick Vincent. Zych worked a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts, Vincent replicated the results in the eighth. Edwin Diaz, aided by a nice running catch from Mitch Haniger, worked a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts for his 14th save.
The four Mariners pitchers combined to strike out 15 batters with no walks.
“That was a dominant performance,” Servais said.
Jose Abreu gave the Mariners a bit of a scare to start the ninth. After thinking he had struck out on three pitches, only to be told that one was called a ball, Abreu a hit a hard line drive to right.
“I missed my location,” Diaz said.
But Haniger bailed him out with a tough catch. It’s a play that no Mariners right fielder from a year ago even sniffs at making.
“Initially, I thought he crushed it and I was just doing my best to get there,” Haniger said. “But the ball faded back. You just have to trust your read and keep running.”