BY John Hickey 11:33PM 08/14/2018

Mariners lose game and Paxton; regain Felix

A comebacker knocked James Paxton from the game (only a bruise), so Felix Hernandez responded with a mostly stout 5.2 innings. But the A’s won a second 1-run game on a row.

Felix Hernandez responded well to his first relief assignment.  / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest file

OAKLAND – The Mariners headline Tuesday night against the A’s at the Coliseum was supposed to be the return of Robinson Cano after his 80-game drug suspension. But that storyline took an early beating in what became a tough 3-2 loss for Seattle.

James Paxton, the left-handed ace of the starting rotation, lasted three batters. Oakland 2B Jed Lowrie hit a laser up the middle that caught Paxton on his left arm.

Lowrie, who later hit a two-run homer that stood as the game’s decider, said, “I thought I hit that ball up the middle harder.”

He’ll get no argument from Paxton.

“It started swelling right away,” he said. “I knew I had to get off the field and get some ice.”

The Seattle medical team was out of the dugout in a flash, and they concurred. Paxton came off the mound toward the ball but didn’t bend over for it. He wandered the infield a bit before leaving the field.  X-rays showed no break. But the contusion, manager Scott Servais said, would cost Paxton at least one start.

Who will get that start? Probably Felix Hernandez. Yup.

The same Hernandez who was unceremoniously booted out of the rotation last week. Tuesday, however, he took over for Paxton and gave the Mariners 5.2 solid innings, even if the Lowrie homer off him in the third meant Hernandez was stuck with the loss.

As Paxton walked to the dugout on the first base side of the Coliseum, the baseball world witnessed something unique — Hernandez running from the dugout to the bullpen to do some quick stretches. He then went to the mound for the 399th game of his 14-year career. The first 398 were starts.

“Man, that was weird,” Hernandez said the quick prep for his first career relief appearance. “I know my body and I know my arm. I knew when I was good to go.”

Servais said he expected Hernandez would take over for Paxton the next time through the rotation against the Astros in Safeco Field.

Hernandez said he didn’t know anything about that. For now.

“Hey, I’m a reliever,” he said. “I’m a professional. I’ve got to do my job. Just go out there and pitch. I thought I made good pitches. Even the pitch to Lowrie was a pretty good pitch.”

Servais said he expected to get Hernandez back into the rotation. He just didn’t want it to be like this, an injury taking down one of his most valuable players.

“It’s unfortunate, but we got a little luck that it’s a bruise,” Servais said. “He’s had a great season, but there’s nothing you can do. It was a comebacker, hit really hard. He’s going to miss a start for sure. We’ll have to see how fast the swelling calms down. But we’re fortunate, because it could have been a lot, lot worse.”

Paxton showed off his left arm where the ball hit, just under and in front of his elbow. An inch in a different direction and the damage would have been worse.

“It’s a little swollen now, that’s for sure,” Paxton said. “But it got all muscle. The doctor said I’ll be good to go as soon as we can get the swelling out of there.”

On Aug. 7, 2016, Paxton was trying to finish the ninth inning a 3-1 win against the Angels when Andrelton Simmons nailed him with a line drive near his elbow.

Tom Wilhelmsen finished that one, getting the lone save of his second and last stint with Seattle. Paxton went on the disabled list and didn’t return until Aug. 25, at which point the Mariners lost his next three starts before rebounding to win three of his final four.

He’s battled injury issues for most of his career. He was on the disabled list once this year with a back problem. Last season, he missed most of August with a pectoral injury.

More than that, with the Mariners in a pennant race, he was looking forward to leading the club to its first postseason visit since 2001.

Now, he’s on hold until the swelling goes down.


  • dingle

    So, I arrived at the coliseum in the 2nd inning and missed all the drama beforehand. I was a little confused to be watching Hernandez pitch while walking to my seat.

    On a completely unrelated topic: Can someone tell me why Servais didn’t pinch-hit for Zunino (always threatening the Mendoza line) in the top of the 9th, with 2 out and runners on 1st and 2nd? The game is on the line, and you don’t have a left-handed bat (or, really, any bat) to run up there?

    The Oakland fans around me were mostly amused at my post-game mini-rant. That seemed like bad managing to me.

    • Kevin Lynch

      So…my martini and I arrived at the TV in the second inning…(I’m not kidding)..WHO is that on the mound!? There must be something about Irish heritage and missing the first inning.

      On a completely related topic: top of the 9th, two down, game on the line. Zunino scheduled to come up. If I am in the dugout managing and you have a gun pointed at my head screaming “Zunino is batting and you are not pinch hitting!!”….I am taking a deep breath…and then pinch hitting for him. Zunino is NOT batting in that situation.

      HUGE swing game today. They lose this game and the M’s are four and a half behind the A’s and likely five behind Houston, who is at home pitching Gerrit Cole against a guy who was surrendered ten runs in his last eleven innings on the road. M’s HAVE to win today. 12:45. That’s my rant.

      • dingle

        It was, in my opinion, an inexcusable managing error. Was he asked about it in the postgame? I’d love to hear his answer.

        I considered last night a close-to-must-win. And I think you’re correct: They HAVE to win today. I’ll be watching through my fingers (or listening with earplugs at the ready?), ready to cover my eyes (or plug my ears) when things go wrong.

        • art thiel

          Unplug, uncover, unclench.

          Again, there is no such thing as must-win until it’s an elimination game. Memorize this, and your stomach lining will thank you.

          • dingle

            I only had minor palpitations during today’s game. But, damn, 0-0 through 11? Come on guys. Knock it off.

      • art thiel

        They heard you and responded. Bartender, he’ll have another, on me.

        • Kevin Lynch

          I’m going to name it the ‘199 martini’ after Zunino’s batting average.

    • art thiel

      Bad timing, dingle. A season’s worth of drama in one inning, and you whiffed. Getting a ticket was not a problem, right?

      I didn’t follow the inning, but I suspect that since Z has been hitting around .260 with five HRs and 8 RBI in his past 20 games, Servais might know the circumstances better than you.

      • dingle

        Getting a ticket was, well, painless. Row 1, first base side. Way, way below face.

        Zunino may have good recent numbers. But with his sample size, there is reversion to the mean. And with the Mariners, or anyone else, I’ll often choose that over past 20.

        And I’ll take lefty v. righty unless the numbers say otherwise.

        I’m confident in my assessment. Which makes me a fan instead of a manager, I know. That’s why he gets paid, and I don’t.

        • Kevin Lynch

          I’m with ya. Zunino has a hole in his swing about the size of the hole in the ozone layer. High, at the top of the zone.