When I wrote the thread for this game, I tried to be measured with my expectations. Senzatela is a tough pitcher; the Rockies have a tough lineup; I didn’t know what to expect out of James Paxton. Would he look like he did in his lone rehab start in Arkansas, striking out batters but also giving up some hard contact? Or would he look like himself again?
I quickly had my answer. Charlie Blackmon, aka the “best center fielder in baseball” with Trout’s injury: called strike at 96, called strike at 97, a foul at 98, and then a cutter at 90 for a flyout. D.J. LeMahieu: called strike at 97, called strike at 98, a foul at 98, and a swinging strike at 83, a knuckle curve in the dirt that made last year’s NL batting champ look silly. Nolan Arenado: swinging strike at 98, a ball at 98, a foul at 98, a foul at 99, a ball at 82, ending in a flyout at 98. Paxton would go five and a third innings in this fashion, working ahead of batters, effortlessly blending his pitches between the high-90s fastball, the low-90s cutter, and a beautiful breaking curve, which at one point clocked 80. From 80 to 99 with pinpoint accuracy—good luck, batters. Paxton had a moment of trouble in the third, when Seager—trying heroically to preserve a no-hit bid, maybe?—threw wildly on what was pretty clearly an infield single from the catcher Tony Wolters. Paxton would then be called for a balk, moving the runner to third, but escaped the inning with no further damage. He cruised through five innings before running into a spot of trouble in the sixth, when Tony Wolters—him again! Like a good mystery where it’s truly the last person you suspect—singled, followed by a Charlie Blackmon single. At 74 pitches, the Mariners’ coaching staff decided that was enough for what was essentially Paxton’s second rehab start. He threw 57 of those 74 pitches for strikes, or 77%, starting almost every batter out on a first-pitch strike. He walked no one, and allowed just three hits while collecting six Ks.
Steve Cishek came on in relief, and despite looking a little wild with his location, nailed down one and two-thirds innings of hitless relief. He also didn’t walk anyone. In fact, Mariners pitching walked exactly zero batters, as Cishek was followed by Pazos, who also allowed no hits, and then Vincent finished out the game, allowing one hit but no runs. This would be an impressive feat against any MLB team, but against the Rockies—fourth highest team average in baseball, sixth in slugging—it certainly shines.
Offensively, the Mariners were able to get to starter Antonio Senzatela in the second inning. After going down 1-2-3 in the first, Nelson Cruz started off the second with a sharp single up the middle. Kyle Seager followed that with a single of his own, and a shaken Senzatela delivered a wild pitch to move up both the runners. A simple sac fly would have scored a run here, but Danny Valencia wants to impress you:
No I mean he really wants to impress you:
STOP DANNY VALENCIA I CAN ONLY LOVE YOU SO MUCH pic.twitter.com/eGwp0BApw8— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) June 1, 2017
Valencia would finish the day with two hits. Someone else who had two hits?
That’s Z’s first multihit game in three consecutive games...in his pro career. Good on ya, Mike. Every Mariner except Canó and Dyson had hits tonight, and Dyson had a walk. They probably missed some scoring opportunities, leaving six runners on base with just a 3-for-11 mark for RISP, but 3-for-11 is a lot better than 0-for-11, and five runs is better than no runs, and blanking a team like Colorado is an achievement. Most importantly, it’s great to see Paxton back and looking like his old self. Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio and company have been solid in holding down the fort, but tonight was a reminder of how exciting things can feel to have a pitcher who’s flat-out dealing on the mound. James Paxton is incredibly special, and he’s a Mariner, and that feels even better than the win.