James Paxton’s first game in his native Canada in more than seven years turned into a epic fiasco Monday night that pushed the Mariners’ postseason aspirations to the brink.
Paxton gave up four runs in the first inning and five more in a third inning he failed to complete in what turned into a 14-4 rout by the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
It was, if anything, worse than it sounds.
“I didn’t want to come out and have this start that I had tonight, obviously,” Paxton said. “They’re all important games right now. And to come out and have a game like this …”
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Paxton (6-4) had not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his previous 15 big-league starts. The Jays got that on one swing in the first inning by Danny Valencia.
It was Valencia who started the five-run third with a leadoff double, but Toronto had no shortage of contributors in a 16-hit attack that sent the Mariners to their third consecutive loss.
“These type of losses,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “they’re bummers because you’re out of it right from the start. You move on, and you get ready for the next one.”
The postseason math is getting grim.
The Mariners (83-73) trail Kansas City (85-71) by two games with six games remaining for the American League’s final wild card spot. Oakland carried an 85-70 record into its night game against Los Angeles.
“We know where we stand,” third baseman Kyle Seager said, “but you can’t win six games in one night. You can’t. You just go out there and play one game.
“The math is what it is, but you can only control one day at a time. You’ve got to look at it that way.”
Not much went right Monday for the Mariners, whose lineup turtled against Toronto lefty J.A. Happ after a promising start. Happ (10-11) gave up one run in the first before breezing through seven innings.
Oh, they got a homer from Seager in the sixth against Happ, and a true boomer in the ninth from Chris Denorfia against reliever Sean Nolin. Think of them as footnotes.
The key was Paxton, who turned in his first career clunker when the Mariners needed him to stem the slide of two blowout losses in Houston, which largely resulted from poor outings Chris Young and Hisashi Iwakuma.
This was also Paxton’s first game on Canadian soil since he pitched summer ball at Kelowna in British Columbia in 2007 after his freshman season at Kentucky.
It couldn’t have gone much worse.
“I think I wanted it a little too much,” Paxton admitted. “It just kind of got away from me. My stuff didn’t feel great tonight. I didn’t have a good feel for anything. It was just one of those starts.”
Paxton gave up nine runs, eight of which were earned, while allowing seven hits and six walks in 22/3 innings. He entered the game with a 2.06 ERA and exited with a 3.03 ERA.
“He’s been great,” McClendon said. “That was one of my concerns coming back here, that he’d be too charged up. He was probably a little nervous pitching in front of of his countrymen.
“It’s a learning experience. It’s a tough one. He’ll get better from it.”
The Jays kept attacking after Paxton departed. They got an unearned run against Brandon Maurer, a Jose Bautista bomb against Tom Wilhelmsen and a two-run shot by Kevin Pillar against Lucas Luetge.
Danny Farquhar started the seventh with a first-pitch fastball to Anthony Gose, who put it in the second deck in straightaway center field.
It was bad from the start, too. Bautista lined a one-out single before Edwin Encarnacion and Dioner Navarro drew walks. (Paxton walked six, remember.)
That loaded the bases with one out for Valencia, who split the left-center gap for a three-run triple. Paxton struck out John Mayberry Jr., but Steve Tolleson grounded an RBI single up the middle for a 4-1 lead.
Valencia led off the third with a double to right center. Paxton then walked Mayberry, and a Tolleson sacrifice moved the runners to second and third.
A two-out walk loaded the bases for Jose Reyes, who singled sharply off Seager’s glove at third. A walk to Bautista forced in another run, which made it 6-1, and finished Paxton.
Maurer threw a wild pitch, and it was 7-1 before Encarnacion lined another single off Seager’s glove. Two runs scored. It was 9-1 and while it was over, it was far from finished.
“Each game you lose at this time of year gets magnified,” Seager said. “At the same time, it’s our job to bounce back and to keep grinding. Each game counts as one, so we just bounce back tomorrow.”