Despite loss, Paxton pleased to start season strong

Despite loss, Paxton pleased to start season strong

SEATTLE -- James Paxton made two bad pitches on Tuesday, and the result was a 2-0 loss to the Angels on a tough night for the Mariners' offense.

Paxton, a 26-year-old lefty who opened the season as Seattle's No. 2 starter, gave up just four hits in his six-inning season debut. But a fourth-inning double by Albert Pujols, followed by a two-run opposite-field home run by David Freese, led to Paxton's first loss in eight Safeco Field starts in his young career.

"I just made a couple mistakes," Paxton said. "I left a cutter over the plate to Pujols, and he hit that ball hard. Then I made a mistake to Freese and left a fastball up and away to him, and that's where he hits the ball hard. I was trying to go down and away, and left it up."

Manager Lloyd McClendon was impressed with his southpaw's season debut.

"I thought he was outstanding," McClendon said. "He gave us an opportunity to win a ballgame. The other guy was better."

McClendon on Paxton's start

The "other guy," Angels lefty C.J. Wilson, held Seattle to two singles over eight innings as the Mariners' bats stayed quiet on a chilly night at Safeco Field. But in the big picture, a strong and healthy Paxton bodes well for Seattle heading forward, and the 6-foot-4 Canadian was clearly the one positive on this night.

Paxton didn't put up good numbers in the spring after getting a late start due to a bruised forearm, but said he felt good despite the 7.84 Cactus League ERA in three starts in Arizona. And indeed that proved to be the case on Tuesday.

Paxton said it was important to start his season on a strong note to put the spring behind him.

"Absolutely," he said. "I wasn't getting the results in the spring. I felt like I went out there and competed and did what I needed to do tonight. I just need to clean up a few things on the mistakes I made and get back out there."

Paxton is now 5-1 with a 1.85 ERA in eight starts at Safeco Field, and 9-5 with a 2.68 ERA overall in 18 career outings. He's been outstanding when healthy since being called up by the Mariners late in the 2013 season, but the toughest part has been keeping him on the mound after missing four months last season with a sore shoulder.

"Physically I felt great," he said after Tuesday's outing. "The ball was coming out great, and I felt like I was right where I needed to be."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.