Paxton exited with lower-back tightness with two outs in the first inning after giving up a two-run homer to Albert Pujols.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The sight brought reflexive nausea to Mariners’ fans, who have seen this scene play out before and know the eventual outcome for James Paxton.
After allowing a two-run homer to Albert Pujols, Paxton began to fidget on the mound, moving his body, obviously feeling discomfort somewhere on his 6-foot-5 frame. In an instant, manager Scott Servais and athletic trainer Matt Toth were out of the visitor’s dugout of Angels Stadium and heading to the mound.
The conversation was brief followed by Paxton handing the ball to Servais and leaving the mound with Toth.
And while it turned out to be just lower back tightness, the Mariners and their fans won’t be breathing easy until they see the big lefty on the mound again some time after the All-Star break.
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The fear of Paxton going on the disabled list for another season brought on a collective gag reflex in the Pacific Northwest that could be heard in Southern California. In what has been a magical first half of the season, any injury to Paxton with a prolonged absence would lead to anxiety and panic of a possible Mariners’ collapse.
But with the All-Star break just days away, this was going to be Paxton’s last start before some deserved time off. He’ll be able to rest the back and get it healthy for the second half of the season.
It was clear something wasn’t right with Paxton from the very first batter of the game. While the velocity was normal on his pitches, they were all up in the strikezone. Leadoff hitter David Fletcher hit a solo homer on the second pitch of the game. A hard line drive for an out and a rocket single off the bat of Mike Trout followed. Paxton struck out Justin Upton, but gave up the homer to Pujols on a 93-mph fastball down the middle.