With a marathon season of games almost every day, where even the best teams will lose 60 to 65 times, and to be fair the Mariners aren’t projected to be among the best, losses will come with some regularity, perhaps 80 to 95 in this season depending on your optimism/cynicism.
And people’s expected hopes for the 2021 season might have taken a serious body blow on a night where the Mariners were drubbed by the White Sox, 10-4, Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park and also suffered what appears to be a significant loss for the foreseeable future.
“Obviously you are disappointed when you lose a ballgame, but even more disappointing when you lose a couple players,” manager Scott Servais said.
Left-hander James Paxton, whom the Mariners brought back to the organization on a one-year, $8.5 million contract this offseason to helped bring stability to a largely inexperienced starting rotation, exited the game with “left elbow discomfort” in the second inning of his first start of the 2021 season.
But in the postgame interviews both Servais and Paxton said that the issue was more muscular in his forearm.
The Mariners also lost left fielder Jake Fraley to a left hamstring strain, which he suffered while making a diving catch in left field in the fifth inning.
Both players will have MRIs on their respective injuries Wednesday morning but they are both expected to placed on the injured list with two players from the alternate training site being called up before Wednesday’s homestand finale at 1:10 p.m. The easy fill for the Mariners would be outfielder Braden Bishop, who is on the 40-man roster, while general manager Jerry Dipoto can choose from an array of relievers.
After a dominant first inning where Paxton got a weak pop-up from leadoff hitter Adam Eaton and then struck out Luis Robert with a 95-mph fastball and Jose Abreu swinging on a cutter in the dirt, all seemed right in the Mariners world … until it wasn’t.
Paxton issued a leadoff walk to Yoan Moncada on five pitches to start his second inning of work. On his fourth pitch of Yermin Mercedes’ at-bat – a 1-2 fastball – he visibly winced after throwing the 92-mph pitch and then walked off the mound and bent over in obvious pain. Servais and head athletic trainer Kyle Torgerson immediately went out to check on the big lefty. After a very brief conversation, Paxton walked off the mound. A few innings later the Mariners officially announced that Paxton had left the game with left elbow discomfort, which is not something any pitcher wants to experience in their throwing arm.
“Watching very closely with Pax, I’ve seen him so much over the years and you see right away something’s not right,” Servais aid. “He’s disappointed and he felt something in his forearm, and at that point, the night is over, just shut it down and see what the doctors have to say.”
Paxton’s 2020 season ended in mid-August due to a strained flexor tendon in his forearm/elbow area. But this felt different.
“It just got worse and worse and it got to a point where I wasn’t able to throw pitches,” he said. “The flexor strain before there was a lot more pain than there is right now so I’m feeling pretty optimistic that this could be a pretty quick thing. Obviously, I don’t know much right now. We’re getting some imaging done, and we’ll know more in the coming days.”
Nick Margevicius entered the game as Paxton’s replacement, and likely his long-term replacement in the starting rotation. Entering with the 2-2 count to Mercedes, Margevicius got him to ground out to first base. He then walked Andrew Vaughn and served up a three-run homer to Zack Collins.
Despite looking overwhelmed in the first two innings against White Sox ace Lucas Giolito, the Mariners managed to tie the score in the third inning. With one out and runners on first and third, Mitch Haniger singled to left to plate the Mariners first of the game. Ty France followed with an RBI double into the left field to make to trim the lead to 3-2. Haniger tied the score, hustling home from third on Kyle Seager’s swinging strike three that bounce away from Collins.
Margevicius got bit by the long ball again in the fifth inning, which would be his final inning of work. He allowed a leadoff single to Adam Eaton and then hung a 1-2 curveball that Robert clubbed into the White Sox bullpen for a 5-4 lead. Chicago tacked on another run off reliever Casey Sadler in the seventh inning.
Abreu turned the game into a rout in the eighth inning. After retiring the first two batters, right-hander Keynan Middleton loaded the bases on a hit by pitch and back-to-back walks to bring up the reigning American League MVP. A poorly executed first pitch slider that had little break was deposited into the upper deck of left field for a grand slam and Abreu’s 200th homer of his career.
Meanwhile, the Mariners’ offense was basically limited to that one third-inning burst. Giolito shook off the three-run inning and pitched into the sixth inning without allowing runs. His final line was 5 1/3 innings, three runs allowed on four hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts. The White Sox rolled out lefty Garrett Crochet and right-hander Codi Heuer and their high 90s fastballs. The two relievers combined for 1 2/3 innings and four strikeouts.
“They’ve got as much talent in their bullpen, maybe as anybody we’ll see all year,” Servais said. “It’s very deep. They all do it a little bit differently. They’ve got plenty of guys who can ride the fastball up, they got some guys that throw 98 and sink it. So it is a challenge. They’re very talented pitching staff.”
Seattle did pick up a run in the ninth inning against Evan Marshall. Dylan Moore doubled and later scored on Haniger’s ground ball. Still Seattle hitters struck out 15 times for the second night in a row vs. White Sox pitching.