Paxton sees progress but can't overcome defensive misplays

'He's getting better each time out,' says McClendon

Paxton sees progress but can't overcome defensive misplays

SEATTLE -- Rarely is a starting pitcher happy when he doesn't make it the five innings required to qualify for a win, but Mariners left-hander James Paxton was encouraged by his progress Saturday after the Mariners lost, 8-5, to the Twins at Safeco Field.

It took Paxton (0-2) 106 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings, and he was saddled with the loss. But he struck out seven, allowed five hits and only one of the four runs surrendered -- Eduardo Escobar's fourth-inning, solo homer -- was earned.

"I feel like it's very close," he said after lowering his ERA to 6.86. "I felt much better tonight out there with my aggressiveness with how I was pitching to guys. It's just about getting back out there and getting ready for the next time."

From the outset, Paxton was forced to pick up his teammates. Third baseman Kyle Seager, after a Gold Glove 2014 season, opened the game by misplaying a routine grounder from Brian Dozier. Later in the inning, center fielder Austin Jackson allowed a Trevor Plouffe fly ball to bounce off his mitt, loading the bases.

Paxton fanned Kennys Vargas for the second out before Eduardo Nunez drew a walk to force in a run. Kurt Suzuki then flied out to end the inning.

"We really put him behind the eight ball. It was a positive start," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "It was certainly something that we can build on with him. I think he's getting better each time out and that's encouraging."

Paxton finished with three walks, but said he was pleased with the way he attacked the strike zone after undergoing a nightmare scenario in his previous outing, when he allowed seven runs on 10 hits over 2 2/3 frames in Seattle's 11-10, come-from-behind win against the Texas Rangers. 

On Saturday, he was better. But he couldn't work out of the fifth after Seager made his second error, this time with a low throw to second base.

"I thought he threw the ball pretty darn well," McClendon said. "... His pitch count got up. I would venture to say it was 35 pitches that we should have saved him over the course of the game. That's tough."

It hasn't been an easy start to the season for Paxton, 26, or the Mariners, who fell to 7-10.

"Everybody's going through a tough time right now, myself included," Paxton said. "You just have to keep on fighting and persevere through this. This team is going to be just fine."

Adam Lewis is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.