OAKLAND, Calif. — While there has been plenty of talk, debate and analysis over the possible fatigue of the Seattle Mariners’ starting pitchers, one starter is getting stronger when his team needs him most.
Rookie left-hander James Paxton delivered a second consecutive solid start, pitching into the eighth inning and leading the Mariners to a much-needed 6-5 win over the Oakland A’s on Tuesday night at O.Co Coliseum.
The final score was a little tighter than needed. Reliever Yoervis Medina, who replaced Paxton, couldn’t seem to get the final out of the eighth inning, allowing three runs to score — two of which were charged to Paxton.
And Fernando Rodney’s 40th save was far from simple. He gave up three straight two-out doubles for two runs in the ninth before getting Josh Reddick, who represented the winning run, to ground out to end the game.
“You know, we had it the whole time,” Paxton deadpanned, before breaking into a sly grin.
It would have been a devastating loss for the Mariners in their quest for to make the postseason. Instead, it was a big win, though they weren’t able to gain any ground in the race for the second wild card, remaining 1½ games behind the Tigers.
“I’ve seen this ballclub do what they did a lot of times,” McClendon said of the A’s rally. “This is a tough ballpark, and the crowd really pumps them up. They’re never really out of the game.”
Because the Mariners (74-63) scored more runs than they had in their previous seven games, they were able to withstand the late outburst.
Even with Medina’s allowing two of Paxton’s base runners to score, his line was still pretty solid: 72/3 innings, two earned runs on four hits, with three walks and two strikeouts on 92 pitches to improve to 5-1.
“I told you guys this kid is good,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s got greatness written all over him. He just has to stay healthy. I thought it was a dominating performance.”
Paxton’s approach was simple.
“I was just going right at them with fastballs and they weren’t making the adjustment, and hitting it right at guys,” he said. “I kept pounding away and they got themselves out.”
Paxton exited the game with runners on first and third and two outs after getting a double play with the bases loaded earlier in the inning.
“I just kind of lost the handle and was missing down with my pitches,” Paxton said.
It was the deepest he’d pitched into a big-league game this season.
“This was the first time he’d been up and down eight times all year up here,” McClendon said. “You could tell the edge was off his stuff in the eighth inning.”
Paxton got plenty of help from his defense. The Mariners turned four double plays and Jesus Sucre made another base runner disappear by throwing out Craig Gentry on an attempted steal.
“That was huge,” Paxton said. “Sucre throwing that guy out and the defense making those double plays behind me really helped.”
It also helped that he pitched with a lead from the third inning on.
A day after makings the A’s weakest starter, Jason Hammel, look like a Cy Young candidate, they jumped all over one of Oakland’s best starters, Sonny Gray.
Seattle scored six runs on seven hits and two walks off Gray, knocking him out of the game after just five innings. It was just the second time this season Gray had given up six or more runs and the fifth time he failed to go at least six innings.
It’s even more surprising considering Gray entered with a 4-0 record and 1.10 earned-run average in five starts against Seattle.
“He’s been good against everybody,” McClendon said. “We had great at-bats, grinded at-bats out.”
Seattle got two runs in the third on an Austin Jackson single. Endy Chavez drove in a pair with a double in the fourth and Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer in the fifth.
“We got the job done,” Seager said. “That’s all that matters.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org