Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz both left the yard, but Cleveland outslugged Seattle, forcing James Paxton from the game after 104 pitches and six earned runs through 4 2/3 innings.
A bad outing from James Paxton, an injury to Nelson Cruz and the Mariners’ disappointing 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday afternoon served as a reminder that baseball fortunes can and will change quite quickly and usually daily.
All of the euphoria and optimism following Thursday night’s victory over the reigning American League Central champions vaporized in the first inning when Paxton loaded the bases on a pair of two-out walks and then left a 95-mph fastball over the middle of plate that former teammate Yonder Alonso sent screaming into the stands in right field for a grand slam.
“I made a bad pitch to Alonso,” Paxton said.
It was a bad pitch on an outing that featured many pitches that missed their intended location.
“It was a tough day,” he said. “I wasn’t locating my fastball very well and when I did it was over the plate. I was missing in the middle. The offspeed pitches weren’t there today. The curveball wasn’t consistent. The cutter wasn’t consistent. It just wasn’t a good day overall.”
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Given his size and the complexities of his mechanics, Paxton will be prone to outings when things aren’t working properly. He needs rhythm to his delivery and he had none. It slogged him down into an earthworm like pace between pitches.
“I was having trouble finding it,” he said. “I was working hard to find that rhythm and it just didn’t come. It showed in the results.”
Paxton’s pitch count piled up fast. He pitched into the fifth inning but was pulled with two outs after walking Alonso. In 4 2/3 innings, he allowed six earned runs on six hits and four walks. He struck out four.
“Pax just had a hard time settling in early,” manager Scott Servais said. “The outs were not easy to come by for him, (he) really had to work today, (and we) didn’t see as many balls on the ground. Usually (he) gets a double-play ball. Leaving the ball up, location of fastball not great as well. He had an off day, it happens.”
Paxton would have allowed another run if not for the ridiculous homer-robbing catch by Ichiro in left field in the third inning. Jose Ramirez hit a towering fly ball that appeared destined for the visiting bullpen. But Ichiro, as he’s done so many times in his career, tracked the ball, found the wall and timed his leap perfectly. It brought a roar and I-chi-ro chants from the crowd of 35,881.
“I was able to get to the wall quick,” he said through interpreter Allen Turner. “I’m glad it worked out.”
Ichiro also chipped in with two hits and a run.
“He’s got a little flair, the things he does in a game,” Servais said. “He said, ‘Skip, that’s routine for me.’ I appreciate that. At 44, that wasn’t routine for me. You could just shake your head and marvel at the guy, his ability. I thought his at-bats were outstanding today, he gets the bat on the ball, (and if) you keep doing that consistently, you’re going to find some holes. He swung the bat really good today.”
The Mariners showed that their offense is good enough to overcome an off day from one of their best starters.
Down 4-0, Seattle trimmed it to 4-3 against Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco. Mitch Haniger blasted his first homer of the season — a solo shot into Edgar’s Cantina — in the second inning. Seattle scored two more runs in the third inning on back-to-back RBI singles from Jean Segura and Robinson Cano.
Paxton couldn’t keep the deficit at one run, serving up a two-run homer in the fourth inning to Yan Gomes.
But the Mariners’ bullpen allowed them to make one last push, holding the Indians in check for the next four innings, highlighted by Casey Lawrence’s 2 2/3 shutout innings.
“Outstanding, our bullpen,” Servais said. “Everyone we brought in after Pax did a nice job. Casey has thrown the ball well all spring. That’s his role, to keep us in the game and give us a chance to come back. We’re going to need to continue to do that. We have enough offense. Everybody sees we’re going to score a bunch of runs this year.”
Cruz smashed his second homer in as many games, sending a towering blast off Carrasco into the Mariners’ bullpen in the sixth inning to make it 6-5.
But that would be Cruz’s last at-bat of the game. Shortly after his homer, he slipped on the bottom step of the dugout and sprained his ankle, forcing him out of the game. He was wearing a walking boot postgame and will have an MRI on Sunday.
“Freak accident, kind of unbelievable at times, some of the things we’ve gone through here,” Servais said. “We’ll try to stay positive and hopefully everything is OK.”
Of course, that would loom costly. In the eighth inning, Robinson Cano led off with a double on a soft liner to center off Andrew Miller that Bradley Zimmer couldn’t quite corral despite a diving effort.
Cruz’s spot in the order followed, but he wasn’t available with the tying run on second. Instead, pinch-hitter Guillermo Heredia got the at-bat. He failed on two bunt attempts and then flied out softly to left. Miller struck out Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy to end the inning.
“I thought our team really competed well today,” Servais said. “We played our tails off. We got down early, Pax was not sharp, had a tough time getting the secondary pitches over. The walks really hurt today. Walked four, three of those scored. That did come back to haunt us. Hung in there, thought our at-bats were really good. We put pressure on them. Our (left-handed) hitters hung in there against Andrew Miller. We had chances, just didn’t get the one big hit we needed.”