BY Art Thiel 07:23PM 08/28/2019

Thiel: First round of Paxton trade goes to Yanks

Mariners picked a brutal foe for Justus Sheffield’s 2nd career MLB start — the AL-best Yankees, and his former team. Matched against James Paxton. Yeesh.

The second career start of Justus Sheffield didn’t go all that well. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

The Mariners season has been in magnum dwindle for so long that it’s easy to lose track, especially in the formidable shadow of the sprained-ankle portion of the Seahawks season. But every once in a while the baseball gods like to cross the streams with some unscripted intrigue that looks as if it were intentional: James Paxton in his first return to Seattle since being traded to the Yankees, facing off against the youngster, Justus Sheffield, who was the Mariners’ prize in the four-player November deal.

You know the storyline: The Big Maple vs. The Little Twig.

Humvee vs. Mini-Cooper.

Google vs. abacus.

Apple vs. apple.

For those eager for a dramatic, unforeseen outcome, we’ll refer you to the Disney Channel.

The Yankees rocked. Paxton rolled. The Mariners Wednesday lost, 7-3, and were swept in a three-game series at T-ball Park against the colossus, which somehow looks 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

Sheffield? Well, whoever booked the Yankees for his second major league start needs to be sternly admonished. He lasted 4.1 innings, gave up five earned runs, including homers to Gary Sanchez and Mike Ford, struck out five and walked none.

But he didn’t seem shattered. Didn’t spit up, swoon or wheeze.

“I knew it would be blown up because of the situation, who was pitching over there,” he said. “I just wanted to take it as a normal game against another team in the league.

“I’m here now. It’s either get nervous about who’s in the box, or go after them. I wanted to go after them. Fell at little short.”

Going after the Yankees is a like slapping a herd of wildebeests. Escape routes are few.

Three homers Wednesday gave New York 69 in August, a continuing MLB record for a calendar month, easily blasting past the previous record of 59 by the 1997 Mariners in the Kingdome. The Yanks lead the majors with 5.85 runs per game and at 88-47, are tied with the Dodgers, whom they beat two out of three inLos Angeles over the weekend, for MLB’s best record.

A two-run homer by C Gary Sanchez in the first inning fell a few feet short of hitting the left field tracks that carry the retractable roof. The Yanks’ Bunyan-esque display was nothing that Paxton, 30, was familiar with during his Seattle tenure from 2013-18.

“These guys make it easier on me when they are scoring this many runs,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

Even though Paxton gave up just one hit — a two-run homer to 3B Kyle Seager in the fourth — he wasn’t in top form, issuing five walks in a span of eight batters.

“It showed what I could accomplish with lesser stuff,’’ he said, but probably could be forgiven for the oddness of the circumstance. “It was definitely weird,  for sure, a new experience, facing a team I was with for such a long time.

“I tried not to think about it and was just going out there and do what I do.’’

Mariners manager Scott Servais was obliged to put on his resolute face, not wishing to discourage Sheffield, who at 23 probably isn’t ready for the big time.

“All positives,” he said of Sheffield, who in 13 games at AAA Tacoma wasn’t exactly killing it, with a 2-6 record and 6.87 ERA, including 48 strikeouts and 41 walks. “No walks. He trusted his stuff. These were the Yankees, where he was part of the organization. He had to get over that hurdle.

“It was a step in the right direction. In Paxton’s evolution, from where he was in his  development, is where we start with Sheffield. As long as he keeps attacking, he’s going to have some very good games.”

Speaking of development, we should take an early glance at how the trade looks. Besides Sheffield, the Mariners also acquired salary relief, pitcher Erik Swanson, 25, and OF Dom Thompson-Williamson, 24.

In his MLB debut season, Swanson is in the Mariners bullpen, on his third call-up, with a 1-5 record and a 6.56 ERA that includes eight starts. He has not allowed a run in his past five appearances over six innings.

Thompson-Williamson has been at AA Arkansas, with 12 homers, 40 RBIs, hitting .241, with a .682 OPS.

Nothing much to show so far, which was to be expected when a top-shelf pitcher is traded for prospects. Mariners fans can only hope that no damage is done by advancing prospects early, known as the A/Z Syndrome (Ackley/Zunino).

For British Columbia native Paxton (11-6, 4.39 ERA in 24 starts), it’s all poutine and maple syrup, as far as Canadian life analogies to a baseball career. He’s one away from tying his career high in victories, and has a splendid chance to pitch in the post-season.

“I saw him (Monday) during batting practice,” Seager said. “Got to visit with him a little. “He likes it there. It’s awesome to see such a good guy have success. Definitely somebody who’s real easy to root for.

“I’m happy for the success he’s having. Not so happy about it today.”

Happiness, of course, was never the Mariners goal this season. It was . . . something down the road. Where and when is not clear.



  • Husky73

    Sanchez’ homer was nearly a Broughamer.

    • art thiel


  • Tian Biao

    magnum dwindle! that about sums it up. five more weeks of suckitude, then . . . finally! . . . the offseason. whew. what a relief that will be.

    • art thiel

      Don’t forget: Ichiro bobblehead night Sept. 14.

  • Mark Thurston

    After watching Paxton for some time I can’t help but think his Canadian heart is just a little too passive for my tastes. And at first glance Sheffield appears quite a bit meaner though less experienced. I think the mental makeup of the two bodes well for the long term outcome of that trade.

    • art thiel

      Hard to know how much a ferocious attitude helps a pitcher. All kinds have succeeded. I’d like to see how Paxton would do with a healthy season of 32 starts.

      • Mark Thurston

        I hear ya Art but given a choice between the two I’ll take ferocious all day every day. . see Randy Johnson who once killed a bird with an errant pitch. . or even a pedestrian wide receiver from Stanford, who’s draft status made him Angry. . lol. . seems to work well in pro sports as long as the Anger is not chemically enhanced. .

  • jafabian

    I’m surprised the M’s put Sheff against the Yankees unless they wanted to see how he’d respond going up against the team that traded him. Their batting order is tough on All-Stars much less a rookie. Hoping that Justus works out better than the last highly touted Yankee prospect the M’s traded for.

    • art thiel

      Servais sounded as if the bosses weren’t worried, mentioning tough lineups on the road trip that the kid will have to face. There’s no formula for these kinds of things because it’s mostly about each guys personality. Tough love.