SEATTLE (AP) — Despite missing almost a month, James Paxton picked up where he left off.
Paxton and three relievers combined on a four-hitter to help the Seattle Mariners beat the Colorado Rockies 5-0 on Wednesday night.
Paxton (4-0), activated off the disabled list earlier in the day, retired 16 of the first 17 hitters he faced, allowing only a two-out infield single in the third inning. Paxton, making his first start since May 2, struck out Pat Valaika to open the sixth, but then allowed consecutive singles to Tony Wolters and Charlie Blackmon, ending his 74-pitch outing.
“Healthy, it felt great. It was good to be back out there,” said Paxton, who had been sidelined with a left forearm strain. “Going into the start of the game I was confident because I’d already gone 100 percent in the bullpen just to make sure that it felt good to go that hard. So, I was able to that in the first inning.”
Paxton, who has not allowed an earned run in five of his seven starts, struck out six and walked one in lowering his ERA to 1.26. Steve Cishek retired all five hitters he faced and James Pazos pitched the eighth. Nick Vincent allowed a single in the ninth, to finish the four-hit shutout and give the Mariners their fourth consecutive victory.
“Unbelievable, like he didn’t miss a beat,” catcher Mike Zunino said of Paxton. “I thought the mechanics were actually even cleaner. I thought he was stronger. The ball was coming out good in the bullpen and I thought he had good stuff, and then when you go out in the first inning and he’s 96, 98 (mph), it’s even better than what you expected.”
Rockies rookie Antonio Senzatela (7-2) allowed four runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in five innings, losing for just the second time in 11 starts.
The Mariners took a 3-0 lead in the second. Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager opened with consecutive singles, each advanced on a wild pitch, and Danny Valencia followed with a two-run double to the gap in right-center. Mike Zunino doubled in Valencia.
“The two ground balls not hit hard, just well-placed,” said Rockies manager Bud Black. “Then the wild pitch moved the runners, that got the potential double play not in the program. And just the ball up over the plate to Valencia was the back breaker in a game like this with Paxton pitching how he was, even though he was on a limited pitch count obviously. But, their bullpen came in and did a nice job too.”
Seattle extended it to 4-0 in the fifth when Jarrod Dyson walked to open, advanced on a balk, took third on a wild pitch and came home on Ben Gamel’s single down the left-field line.
The Mariners added a run in the seventh on singles by Zunino and Segura, a wild pitch, and Gamel’s sacrifice fly.
“I can’t say enough what it means to have Paxton back,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “He gave us more tonight than I think we expected, coming into this having not pitched in a little over a month, or right around there. At this level, it was awesome. I looked up on the board one time and like the first 15 hitters he faced, there was 13 first-pitch strikes.”
SEAGER HEATING UP:
Seattle’s Kyle Seager, who hit .278 with a career-best 30 homers and 99 RBI last season, has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games. Over that span he is hitting .357 with five doubles, a homer and six RBI. “When Seager starts hitting, we are a different team,” Servais said. “There is no doubt, offensively.”
Mariners: Nelson Cruz, who left Tuesday’s game at Colorado in the second inning with right calf tightness while playing right field in the interleague game, was back in the lineup as DH. . RHP Felix Hernandez (right shoulder inflammation) and RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (right shoulder inflammation), each on the 10-day DL, each looked good in recent bullpen sessions. Manager Scott Servais said Hernandez is expected to throw a couple innings in a simulated game Friday or Saturday and then go out on a rehab assignment after that.
Rockies: Left-hander Kyle Freeland (5-3, 3.43) makes his first career start against the Mariners in the Thursday afternoon finale of the two-game series at Safeco Field. He has pitched at least 5 2/3 innings in each of his last seven starts.
Mariners: Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (2-5, 5.76) has never beaten the Rockies. He is 0-5 with a 5.70 ERA in 11 career games against Colorado, including 10 starts. Gallardo has won only once in his last six starts.