Hours removed from extending their general manager with a multi-year contract, the Mariners had a big contribution from one of the long-term players who made the deal possible. James Paxton pitched well in a 5-0 victory over Texas, in front of 20,469, that helped Seattle (72-59) maintain a half-game lead over the Tigers in the race for the American League’s second wild card.
In announcing the deal Tuesday afternoon, team president Kevin Mather pointed to the way GM Jack Zduriencik has positioned the organization to win not just in 2014, but for the future with a ground-up rebuilding process.
“With the efforts of Jack and his staff,” Mather said, “We are now well-positioned as an organization to be a contender for many years to come.”
Paxton, a fourth-round draft pick in the 2010 MLB draft, improved to 7-1 with a 1.71 ERA in 11 career starts by pitching 6.2 shutout innings against the Rangers. His August return from a four-month stint on the disabled list with a lat strain has invigorated the Mariners during their stretch drive.
“Paxton was pretty good, a little rough around the edges early on,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “But once he got his lather, he started throwing the ball (well).”
Paxton limited the Rangers to four singles on a career-high 118 pitches. The left-hander walked three and struck out four in his seventh start. The high pitch total was evidence of a concerted effort from his manager to extend a young pitcher with 32.2 innings entering Tuesday.
“We need to get the rust off (him) a little bit, and you could see he was stronger as he went on,” said McClendon. ”He’s a big horse, we need to get him going.”
A first-inning solo homer from Robinson Cano off Texas rookie starter Nick Martinez put the Mariners started things, and added on in the second and fourth innings before letting the bullpen finish Texas (51-80).
In the second, Martinez yielded a single to Kyle Seager and walked two to load the bases with one out. Jesus Sucre brought home Seager with a ground ball to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who made a spectacular play to retire Sucre at first for the second out.
In the fourth inning, Seattle built a 5-0 advantage as it started to hit Martinez, who gave the Mariners a tough time in only previous matchup June 15. Endy Chavez doubled home Logan Morrison and Chris Taylor to put the Mariners ahead 4-0. With two outs, Dustin Ackley delivered a single to plate Austin Jackson, who tripled.
Martinez went five innings, giving up five earned runs on six hits and four walks. He didn’t record a strikeout, something manager Ron Washington pinned on inexperience.
“It’s hurt him,” Washington said. “When things aren’t going as well as he’d like them to go, he’s still trying to find out how to get back in sync. He was out there competing tonight, he just couldn’t get in sync with anything. It’s inexperience.”
The Rangers lack experience throughout a 25-man roster which has had 18 rookies at one time or another this season. Texas dropped to 16-45 over its last 61 games. The Mariners exploited a depleted squad essentially waving the white flag for the 2014 season with the second win in last six games against their floundering division rival.
The difference was Paxton. The Mariners saw a glimpse of what the lanky 25-year-old left-hander can be when fully charged.
“He’s getting there,” McClendon said. “He’s not quite there as far as command is concerned, but stuff-wise, velocity wise, he’s there.”
Mariners OF Chris Denorfia was a late scratch with a stiff neck. He is expected to be OK Wednesday . . . After taking a foul tip to the mask late in Tuesday’s game, Sucre was put through concussion tests and will be re-evaluated Wednesday . . . Paxton has allowed one earned run or less in eight of first 11 career starts . . . Erasmo Ramirez will be recalled from Class AAA Tacoma to make Wednesday’s start against the Rangers . . . Seattle has not lost consecutive contests since July 24-25 at home versus Baltimore.