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Pitcher’s rehab start against MLB-quality team doesn’t go well, Mariners lose 5-2

Paxton shaky in return, offense quiet, fans sad

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

I mentioned in the game thread how seemingly every time the M’s seem to get on a little bit of a hot streak they run into the Astros, whose batters buzzsaw them with extra-base hits as their pitchers buzzsaw through the Mariners lineup with dastardly curveballs and plus-plus fastballs. I wrote that, but I hoped it would be different, much in the way I continue to hope this season will be different, that the team will pull out some dazzling winning streak and make things interesting all the way to the end. But then every time we turn around, there are the freaking Astros, a collective navy-and-orange-clad memento mori, the bowl clattering against the floor as it’s knocked out of Oliver Twist’s hands, again and again.

James Paxton has been the Mariners’ best pitcher this year when he’s been healthy and on the mound. Today he of those things. Paxton opened the game with a leadoff walk to Springer, a harbinger of things to come. His final line: 1.1 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, and for the first time I can remember, no strikeouts. Pax was on a sixty-pitch limit, and he’d already blown through almost two-thirds of that after the first inning. He struggled to locate his curveball for strikes, and it lacked the sharp bite it usually has. He threw just three cutters, although I think the first one was miscategorized, as it came in at 91 mph, approximately the same speed as his fastball, whereas the others landed in the mid-80s, where his cutter usually does. He wasn’t able to get strikes off either of his off-speed pitches, and his fastball wasn’t great either. As I mentioned, it sat around 92-93, with a low of 91 and a high of 94; a far cry from the blazing fastball we associate with Pax. The good news is his fastball didn’t fall off in velocity as he went along, but that’s about all the good news there was from this outing. Paxton threw 50 pitches, and only 27 strikes, as he struggled to find the zone with any of his pitches. He faced ten batters and went to three-ball counts on five of them. It was a pretty lousy outing and indicated Pax might not be ready for prime time just yet.

Meanwhile, the offense struggled against Charlie Morton, who gave up an unlucky double to Jean Segura in the first before striking out the side. He would go on to retire the next ten batters he faced before giving up a single to Robinson Canó. Nelson Cruz then walked and it looked like, with just one out, the Mariners might have a rally going. But Kyle Seager, 0-for-4 tonight with two strikeouts, struck out, and Yonder Alonso, who also went 0-for-4 tonight, popped out to end the threat. And so it would go: when the Mariners scraped together a precious base runner or two, they wouldn’t be able to establish any kind of momentum. Somehow they scored two runs and I can’t even tell you how. I’m pretty sure the first one was scored on an error. The Astros would add two runs to their lead off reliever Yovani Gallardo, but the Mariners never really threatened tonight. It was a boring, bad game, and this is a boring, bad recap, and I’m sorry for it.

If you want a good thing to pull from tonight, let it be the performance of Mike Zunino, who did strike out twice but also collected two hits and picked off Carlos Correa at first base. Zunino’s defense hasn’t been up to his usual standard this year, so it’s great to see Mike getting his defensive groove back.

And if you want another good thing, the Modesto Nuts are currently leading 7-1 and about to win the California League Championship. So maybe tune in and listen to that to wash the taste of this game out of your mouth. Go Nuts.