It’s amazing how far we’ve come with James Paxton. The Big Maple started the game looking a little off, which just goes to show how great the man actually is. Paxton had not allowed a single hit in the first inning since May 2nd, so by “off” I simply mean that he allowed a leadoff single to Brian Dozier in two pitches. After the Dozier disruption, Paxton continued to be as Paxtonesque as can be, needing only a total of 15 pitches to end the first inning, 12 of which were strikes.
In the bottom of the first, the M’s were quick on the attack. Jean Segura got into Fernando Romero’s head by singling on his second pitch and taunting to steal. Romero battled through, striking out Guillermo Heredia and Mitch Haniger, but not before Jean managed to nab his 12th base of this season and placing himself in scoring position.
Up came Nelson Cruz into the batter’s box, calm and cool. He swung his seemingly-effortless swing at the first pitch Romero threw. Cruz turned that 86 mph slider down in the middle of the zone into a hard-hit grounder that made its way through the gap on the left side of the infield. Segura circled third and chugged on home, sliding in feet-first (thankfully) past Mitch Garver, who, unlike other catchers, was not blocking the plate.
The Mariners were up early as Paxton continued his fastball onslaught in the 2nd inning. He retired the Twins’ 5-6-7 batters all through groundouts, which isn’t a common occurrence for the Canadian, considering his 30% groundball rate. In the third inning, the Big Maple seemed to struggle with Twins shortstop Ehire Adrianza.
Paxton threw a 93mph fastball down the middle to Adrianza to start the at bat. Adrianza fouled it off. Paxton then alternated between fastballs and breaking balls until he earned his second strikeout of the game with an outside fastball clocked in at 97.5 mph.
Paxton went on to strikeout the side that inning and allowed only two more hits through seven innings, both to Max Kepler, the Twins’ right fielder. Unfortunately, one of those hits was long solo home run to right field in the 5th inning off of a fastball down in the middle of the zone, which tied the score at one.
Even when the Mariners aren’t swinging the bats as much (in the second inning, Mike Zunino struck out on six pitches without so much as a hip-swivel), they still manage to grind out a run or two, so we all knew the tie game would not last long. In fact, the one-run tie lasted all of one inning.
In the sixth inning, the M’s were already down two outs when up came El Conde Guillermo Heredia, who drew a walk on a pitch that nearly stopped my heart.
At this point in the game, Fernando Romero was looking rather tired, throwing many pitches high and inside for balls, one of which went wild and allowed Heredia to advance to second base. Haniger capitalized on a fastball in the zone and scored Heredia on sharp single up the middle. The M’s were up once again, only by a run.
Nick Vincent, sporting his striped stirrups, came in to relieve James Paxton in the eighth inning, who had only allowed the one run to Kepler, three hits, while striking out a previous-career high eleven batters and walking not one. Other than allowing a small single to Adrianza, Vincent held down the Twins offense with his fastball/cutter combination. Allowing Edwin Díaz, aka Sugar, aka Unleaded Plus to come on down to the mound in the ninth to do his thing.
Díaz started off the ninth with three balls outside to Eddie Rosario, who then flew out to right field on the next pitch. He then got to work on Miguel Sanó. Sanó struckout on four pitches because Miguel Sanó does Miguel Sanó things. With a long line drive out to Heredia, Díaz retired Eduardo Escobar to earn his American League leading 18th save of the season.
The pyrotechnics flared about Safeco Field and the Mariners earned their 30th win, beginning their series against the Twins on the right foot and in the right stadium. I’m not sure what was better, winning this game, or winning this game in Not-Minnesota.