It was roughly three weeks ago, after getting rocked by the Los Angeles Angels in successive outings, that Mariners reliever Nick Vincent spotted a flaw while reviewing tapes of his performance.
Vincent was, at the time, less than 10 days into his return to active duty after spending six weeks on the disabled list because of a muscle strain in his middle back. The layoff produced some bad habits.
"We looked at that video," he said, "and figured out my hands were getting higher. I was getting real long with that. That’s not really me. After that, we toned it down. I got shorter and quicker to the plate.
"That gets my arm speeding up, so I can get on top of the ball more."
The adjustment had an immediate effect.
Vincent has allowed one run and four hits over 10 innings in his last 10 appearances with nine strikeouts and two walks. His ERA, which reached 4.08 after giving up five runs in 1 2/3 innings against the Angels, is down to 3.48.
"Nick Vincent has been really good all year," manager Scott Servais said. "He had a little hiccup there in the middle, and he missed some time.
"But he’s made some adjustments against the left-handed hitters and has been phenomenal here in the second half."
Asked about his newfound effectiveness against lefties, Vincent offered a simple explanation: throwing better pitches.
"In the beginning of the year," he said, "I was kind of throwing like I used to throw. And not sticking to pitches that worked. I tried to go backdoor a couple of times, and I was leaving it in the middle. So guys were hitting it.
"I gave up three or four home runs just off that pitch alone."
Lefty James Paxton characterized his troublesome middle fingernail as "consistently healing" after throwing his regular between-starts bullpen workout in preparation for a start Sunday against the Athletics.
Paxton suffered a torn nail on the middle finger of his pitching hand in an Aug. 30 start at Texas. The training staff treated the injury by applying a compound that hardened into a fake nail.
That permitted Paxton to make his scheduled start Tuesday in a rematch against the Rangers at Safeco Field. Although he lasted just 4 1/3 innings, he threw 103 pitches and the nail held in place.
The ailment did, however, force Paxton to make an adjustment by limiting the use of his cut fastball because that pitch puts extra stress on the nail.
"The cutter is probably going to be out (in Sunday’s start)," he said. "It’ll probably just be fastball, curveball and change-up again."
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is likely to activated Saturday when he is eligible to return from the disabled list. He reported no day-after problems following his 25-pitch inning Thursday in a simulated game.
The Mariners placed Wilhelmsen on the disabled list because of back spasms after an Aug. 25 appearance against the White Sox in Chicago. The ailment surfaced a few days earlier and failed to respond sufficiently to a three-day break.
Wilhelmsen, 32, is 0-1 with a 3.20 ERA in 22 appearances since returning June 21 to the Mariners as a free agent.
***Catcher Steve Clevenger suffered an elbow injury while on a rehab assignment for a broken finger and is likely done for the season.
"He’s had issues, the last two or three weeks, with his throwing elbow," Servais said. "It flared up. So they shut him down. He’s actually in Seattle and getting treatment there and trying to get it cleaned up before he goes into the off-season.
"I do not expect to see him play (again this season) for us."
Clevenger, 30, suffered a broken bone in the middle finger of his right hand on a foul ball in a June 29 game against Pittsburgh. He spent three minor-league rehab games as a designated hitter before the Mariners shut him down.
Prior to the injury, Clevenger batted .221 with one homer and seven RBIs in 22 games. The Mariners acquired him on Dec. 2, 2015 from Baltimore in a trade for first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo and lefty reliever C.J. Riefenhauser.
While all seven Mariners’ affiliates reached postseason, the organization did not finish with the highest winning percentage among domestic farm clubs — which, effectively, means all clubs except those in the Dominican Summer League.
Philadelphia posted a .595 winning percentage, which was the best for any organization for the last eight years, according to Baseball America. The Mariners finished second at .581, which was the third-best mark in the last eight years.
The 2009 Giants finished at .590.
Now here’s a point to ponder: One year posting that mark, the Giants embarked on a run of three World Series titles in five years.
It was 25 years ago Saturday — Sept. 10, 1991 — that the Mariners snapped a 13-game road losing streak by rallying for a 5-4 victory at Toronto.
The Mariners trailed 4-0 after three innings but took the lead in the eighth on Harold Reynolds’ two-out RBI double. Calvin Jones retired six straight hitters over the final two innings in preserving the victory.
A couple of notable birthdays on Friday: Mariners Hall of Famer Alvin Davis turned 56, and bullpen coach Mike Hampton turned 44. Randy Johnson turns 53 on Saturday…Dae-Ho Lee entered the weekend with 14 homers, which left him one shy of the rookie record by a Korean-born player. Pittsburgh’s Jung Ho Kang hit 15 in 2015…the Mariners, through Thursday, led all clubs with 36 homers with either two or three runners on base (four grand slams, 32 three-run homers). Boston, Cincinnati and St. Louis were tied for second with 31.
The Mariners and Athletics continue their three-game series at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (10-5 with a 3.75 ERA) will face Athletics right-hander Kendall Graveman (10-9, 3.81).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners