In a game that started in 100-degree temperatures, the Mariners’ top pitcher didn’t make it out of the fourth inning as the Rangers cruised to a 10-4 win.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Perhaps the best thing to say about the Mariners and their losses of late is that they are lacking in late-inning failure and walkoff heartbreak.
Like so many of their defeats dating to the gutting of their starting pitching staff due to injury, the Mariners fell behind by a significant deficit early, making a comeback unlikely.
That it happened to lefty James Paxton, who delivered a second consecutive less-than-stellar performance, is concerning, frustrating and disappointing for the Mariners. Given his talent and early performances, Paxton’s starts represent the Mariners’ best chance at victory regardless of opponent.
Instead, he slogged through his worst outing of the season and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning while being charged with seven runs in a 10-4 drubbing by the Rangers.
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The Mariners fell to 33-36 and 13-23 on the road. Of their last 13 losses, only three have been by three runs or less.
“Everything looks like a struggle,” manager Scott Servais said of Paxton. “And he’s a big part of trying to dig us out of this little hole we created here.”
In back-to-back games, the Mariners’ best two pitchers in the current rotation — Paxton and Ariel Miranda — delivered poor outings.
“It does put us in a tough spot,” Servais said. “We’ve been trying to hold it together with glue and everything else around here.”
In sauna-like conditions at Globe Life Park, with temperature on the field around 100 degrees with high humidity Friday night, Paxton seemed to wilt in the conditions, falling apart in a five-run third inning.
With the velocity on his fastball down just a tick and his command not sharp, Paxton just couldn’t find success. The tight strike zone of home-plate umpire Alan Porter didn’t help. The pitches that were borderline on the edges of the plate were called balls and when he was forced to bring the ball over the plate, he left pitches right down the middle and they were hit hard.
“I didn’t fill up the zone enough with strikes to get those calls,” he said. “I didn’t earn those strikes.”
So what has been the issue in his last two starts, where he’s given up a combined 11 runs in 72/3 innings? Is the forearm strain that put him on the disabled list on May 5 bothering him again?
“I’m healthy,” he said. “There is no issue with my arm. Not hurt. My timing is off and I have to look at some video and try to figure out what’s going there.”
He believes that lack of timing is why his fastball is slightly down in velocity.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Things aren’t firing at the right time. I’m going to spend some time on it the next few days and get it figured out for my next start.”
Servais and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre are seeing the same things.
“He just doesn’t have any rhythm at all,” Servais said. “The ability to repeat his delivery and locate the fastball and even his secondary stuff wasn’t very sharp tonight. The last couple starts he hasn’t looked comfortable out there. There’s no rhythm to his pitch sequencing, delivery.”
The process begins immediately.
“Mechanically, Mel picked up a few things tonight,” Servais said. “He’s kind of cutting himself off a little bit so he doesn’t have the extension to the fastball and the finish to the offspeed pitches, which you can see. The hitters are tracking it much better than they typically do.”
The game-changing moment for Paxton came with one out in the third inning. He walked Delino DeShields and Shin-Soo Choo back-to-back. Elvis Andrus followed with a double into left, reaching out and driving a low curveball for a line drive to tie the game at 1.
Paxton couldn’t make the pitch to stop the bleeding. After getting up 0-2 on Adrian Beltre, he left a 96-mph fastball over the middle of the plate that Beltre drove into right for a two-run single and a 3-1 lead.
“Just a bad pitch,” he said.