Bullpen picks up Paxton with brilliant display

Seattle starter on short leash in first start since May 28

Bullpen picks up Paxton with brilliant display

SEATTLE -- Seattle's offense couldn't pull through against Colorado in Sunday's 3-2 loss, but it was the Mariners' bullpen that kept the club within striking distance of a series victory.

Following a three-plus inning start by left-hander James Paxton, who threw his first game for the Mariners since May 28, five relievers combined to allow just two hits over six innings, striking out six Rockies hitters.

"They did a nice job," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "They kept us in the ballgame. They shut it down the rest of the way."

The Mariners entered Sunday's game with a 4.21 bullpen ERA -- seventh-highest in the Major Leagues -- and neither Carson Smith nor Tom Wilhelmsen, two of the club's more consistent relievers of late, pitched with Seattle trailing, but the bullpen managed to keep the tally at 3-2 beyond the fourth.

They even managed to work around a combined four walks. Mayckol Guaipe struck out shortstop Cristhian Adames with runners on first and second in the fifth, Vidal Nuno pitched around a Jose Ramirez walk in the seventh for a scoreless frame, and Tony Zych got Nolan Arenado to swing and miss on a 3-2 slider to end the ninth.

"We were preparing our minds for a game like this," said right-hander JC Ramirez, who tossed a 1-2-3 sixth. "We threw strikes and worked down in the zone. They swung at bad pitches when we were ahead in the count."

The bullpen was at its best in recent memory, holding Arenado and slugger Carlos Gonzalez to a combined one hit in five at-bats over the final six innings, but never factored into the decision after a fourth-inning error by Kyle Seager that put the Mariners behind, 3-0.

"Really the fourth inning was the game, if you think about it," McClendon said. "Kyle had a tough play coming in that scored two. Bullpen did a nice job of shutting them down after that, we just couldn't push anything across."

Andrew Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.