Seattle Mariners

Blue Jays 4, Mariners 0: Paxton’s first bad start of the season lets Jays claim series

The ball bounces from the glove of Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and onto the back of Seattle’s Ben Gamel on Sunday as Gamel steals second base in the seventh inning in Seattle.
The ball bounces from the glove of Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and onto the back of Seattle’s Ben Gamel on Sunday as Gamel steals second base in the seventh inning in Seattle. The Associated Press

Another largely partisan Toronto crowd was chanting “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” Sunday when Jose Bautista caught Mitch Haniger’s liner for the final out.

Give the visiting fans this much: They brought a lot more electricity to Safeco Field over the weekend than the Mariners, whose 4-0 defeat on Sunday was preceded by a 4-2 loss Saturday night.

And though the Mariners won seven of 11 during the homestand, the momentum provided by last week’s five-game winning streak was all but forgotten.

“They out-pitched us today, basically,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

That was evident in the first inning, when Seattle starter James Paxton gave up a leadoff double to Kevin Pillar. Josh Donaldson followed with a homer to right field, and the Jays had all the runs they’d need.

Paxton had been superior both before and after the forearm-strain injury that put him on the disabled list, but struggled against a Jays lineup that combines patience with power.

“I didn’t feel great today,” said Paxton, whose record fell to 5-1 after lasting just four innings — his shortest outing in more than a year. “I had a hard time finding my timing and rhythm. I didn’t have it, but I have a plan for getting myself back when I need to.

“I’ll be ready for the next one.”

Until reliever Emilo Pagan replaced him in the fifth, Paxton was in perpetual jam-extraction mode. He allowed eight hits and three walks as the Jays worked his pitch count to 94.

“Paxton is off to a good start,” Servais said. “Everybody in the league knows who he is, and guys get geared up for him. He just wasn’t on top of his game.

Paxton most disappointing 2017 start coincided with what was J.A. Happ’s best start. The Jays lefty struck out six over six scoreless innings, improving his record to 1-4.

“He looked like the old guy,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons, referring the 2016 Cy Young Award candidate who went 20-4, with a 3.18 ERA. “His fastball was jumping, with much better command. He didn’t use a whole lot of other things, but he normally doesn’t anyway. I think that was step in the right direction. It answered a lot of questions for me.”

Happ wasn’t flawless. The Mariners had runners scoring position in each of the first four innings, and advanced as far as third base in both the second and third. But Happ escaped the second by striking out Taylor Motter, and coaxed Kyle Seager into hitting an inning-ending groundout to first base in the third.

“I felt like we had Happ on the edge the first three or four innings,” Servais said, “but we just couldn’t push him off the edge. A run or two may have made a difference.”

THE BAD

Returning to a theme that characterized their early-season offensive struggles, the Mariners finished 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

THE GOOD

Long reliever Emilio Pagan, called up Saturday from Tacoma, allowed no hits while striking out five over four shutout innings.

“Emilio Pagan did a great job out of the bullpen,” Servais said. “He kept us in the game. To get four innings out of him helped give some guys rest going into the next series. He did his job and then some.”

PLAY OF THE GAME

Before the “home” crowd settled in for the afternoon, Jays slugger Josh Donaldson set the tone by handling what James Paxton called “a pretty good pitch, down and away.” Donaldson’s 357-foot homer to right gave Toronto a 2-0 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

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