SEATTLE -- The Mariners and their opponents have been waiting on left-hander James Paxton to fulfill his enormous potential. To the delight of the former and the anguish of the latter, it seems to be happening this year.
Paxton continued an utterly dominant April on Saturday night in a 5-0 victory over the Texas Rangers before 34,927 fans at Safeco Field. He took a no-hitter into the sixth, he shut out Texas for eight innings, surrendering two hits, and he extended his season-opening scoreless streak to 21 innings over three starts. He struck out nine Saturday while only walking one. So far this year he has given up eight hits with 22 punchouts and four walks.
"I can't say enough about what Pax did tonight and the start that he's off to this year," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I had a feeling that this could kind of be his breakout year after what we saw last year. He had that stretch of 10, 12 starts there at the end of the season and he's just continued to build off that and grow."
With his outing, Paxton became the first pitcher since Ray Caldwell in 1914 to start the season with three games of at least six scoreless innings and fewer than four hits in each game.
"I think that Paxton threw the ball extremely well against us tonight," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He kept it in tight to our hitters, was able to expand when he got ahead, he used the breaking pitch and the changeup to keep us off balance, he played the up-fastball game very well tonight, and he landed a lot of pitches and made it extremely challenging for us tonight."
Oddly enough, Paxton looked like he might be in for a scuffle when he walked leadoff batter Carlos Gomez in the first inning, but he calmly induced a double-play ball off the bat of Elvis Andrus, then retired the next 14 hitters in succession.
Joey Gallo broke up the no-hitter with one out in the sixth on a bullet of a double into right field and reached third base on a wild pitch, but it didn't faze Paxton, who got Gomez on a bunt pop-up to end that threat.
"I needed it right there," Paxton said. "At that point, the game was still 0-0. That was a big run to keep off the board right there and it kind of got our boys going and got them on the bats there."
The only issue for Paxton at that point was the fact that the Mariners hadn't yet scored any runs for him, but Seattle took care of that by batting around in the bottom of the sixth. After the Mariners loaded the bases with one out against Texas starter Andrew Cashner, who was making his Rangers debut, Kyle Seager singled home two runs.
That chased Cashner, who gave up five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 nnings, but the Mariners weren't done. Shortstop Taylor Motter greeted reliever Mike Hauschild with a booming three-run home run that made it 5-0, and Paxton was able to cruise the rest of the way.
"I thought Cash threw the ball extremely well," Banister said of Cashner. "The fastball up, the fastball in, and then the two-seam sinking fastball with the combo of the change was really the key for him tonight." More >>
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Seager snaps scoreless tie: After being held in check for five innings by Cashner, the Mariners loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on a single by Mitch Haniger, an error on shortstop Elvis Andrus and a walk to Nelson Cruz. Seager then got ahead of Cashner 3-1, fouled off a pitch and then lined a two-run single to right to make it 2-0.
"The way Paxton was throwing, you feel like if you get a run, you're going to be in good shape. A run would have felt like three there. Paxton was phenomenal all night, he's been phenomenal all season," Seager said.
Motter follows with long ball: Seager's single chased Cashner, bringing on right-hander Hauschild. Motter, filling in at short for injured Jean Segura, lined an 0-1 pitch deep over the left-field wall for a three-run shot. Each of Motter's six hits have gone for extra bases -- two homers and four doubles. More >>
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After breaking up Paxton's no-no with a double in the sixth, Gallo attempted to advance to third base after Mariners catcher Mike Zunino had trouble handling a Paxton pitch. Gallo was called out by third-base umpire Manny Gonzalez, but Banister challenged the ruling. After a review of two minutes and 55 seconds, the call was overturned and Gallo was ruled safe on a Paxton wild pitch.
"We obviously didn't get off to a good start, we know that. But, we also know what we have in this room and we understand that it's a long season." -- Seager on Seattle's recovery after a slow start
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: The Rangers hand the ball to veteran left-hander Cole Hamels for the series finale vs. the Mariners on Sunday afternoon at 3:10 p.m. CT. Hamels (0-0, 2.77) has taken a pair of no-decisions this season despite exiting both starts in position for the win. He is 5-3 with a 5.09 ERA in 10 career starts vs. Seattle.
Mariners: Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1, 2.25) starts for Seattle. He has pitched six innings in each start, allowing a total of six hits, but he has walked three each time out. He is 9-6 with a 3.68 ERA in 19 games - 18 starts - vs. Texas, including 5-2 at Safeco Field.