After 15 dominant starts to begin his career, James Paxton endured his first clunker of the season at the worst possible time, continuing the Mariners September swoon Monday in a 14-4 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto, the first of the final four road games of the season.
The Canadian-born left-hander walked six over 2.2 innings, which cost him mightily as the Blue Jays scored nine runs on seven hits. The start was the first in which he allowed more than three runs. It came against a Toronto squad that lost six of seven games.
Seattle (83-73) has lost three in a row by a combined score of 32-8, and 10 of its past 15, while chasing playoff spots in the American League. For the No. 2 wild card spot, the Royals (85-71), who lost a delayed game 4-3 to Cleveland Monday before beating the Indians 2-0 in a full game, sit two games ahead with six to play. The Athletics (86-70) were a game up on the Royals in the No. 1 wild card spot after beating the Angels 8-4.
Toronto (79-77) got their offense started in the first inning against Paxton. Four runs on three hits and two walk,s including a bases-loaded triple by Danny Valencia, erased an early deficit to put the Jays ahead 4-1.
It got worse for Paxton (6-4, 3.03 ERA) in the third inning. Another Valencia extra-base hit and two walks had the Jays well-positioned with one out. An infield single from Jose Reyes and a subsequent bases-loaded walk to Jose Bautista extended the lead to 6-1, and brought the end for Paxton.
Reliever Brandon Maurer offered no help. A passed ball and two-RBI single from Edwin Encarnacion cleared the bases.
Meanwhile, after a first-inning run thanks to an RBI double by Robinson Cano, Seattle did next to nothing against veteran starter J.A. Happ. A Kyle Seager sixth-inning home run brought home the final run against Happ (10-11, 4.27 ERA). The left-hander pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and one walk.
Toronto tacked on five additional runs against the Seattle bullpen, including homers from Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar.
Many of the Mariners hitters could take a lesson from Bautista. While the Jays have long since surrendered an early season AL East lead to the Baltimore Orioles and seen their playoff hopes dashed, Bautista continues to go about his business like the perennial All-Star he is.
The 33-year-old outfielder was 3-for-3 with a home run and a walk to improve upon a month in which he hit .288 with a .986 OPS entering the game.
Seattle scored two late runs on a Seager single and a Chris Denorfia solo home run.
Over the past 15 games, Seattle starters have pitched to a 5.98 ERA. Entering September, the team sought to be the first AL team in more than two decades to post a sub-3.00 ERA.
The loss was a hard one for Paxton especially. With the start, he became just the 18th Canadian-born pitcher in major-league history to make a start on Canadian soil. That meant something to the 25-year-old who has a maple leaf tattooed on his forearm.
The excitement and media attention were clearly too much for the rookie to handle. It appears the final 20 games of a trying 162-game schedule are too much for a young Mariners team.
The Mariners announced changes for two starting pitchers Monday. LHP Roenis Elias (elbow strain) was shut down for the season and RHP Chris Young was moved to the bullpen, where he will stay. No starter has been named for Young’s scheduled Thursday start . . . Paxton was drafted by Toronto in 2009 and is a native of Ladner, B.C.