Offense backs Paxton in triumphant return

Offense backs Paxton in triumphant return

SEATTLE -- The return of James Paxton and a revived offensive attack provided another shot in the arm for the Mariners on Wednesday as they won their fourth straight with a 5-0 decision over the Rockies.

After totaling just nine runs in eight previous games, Seattle has outscored its last four foes 26-9, with Danny Valencia's two-run double and a pair of key hits from Mike Zunino paving the way. The Mariners improved to 25-29 as they kicked off an 11-game stand at Safeco Field, where they're now 14-9.

Paxton threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings in his first game since May 2 due to a strained forearm. The 28-year-old southpaw allowed just three hits with no walks and six strikeouts in a 74-pitch outing and is 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA in seven starts.

Paxton's strong return

"He's turned into a top-of-the-rotation stud and it's great for our club," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I think everybody felt it tonight when he took the mound. Dominant starting pitching does so much for your team and it lifts everybody's spirits. The guys offensively relax and have good at-bats."

Paxton dominant in return from DL

Rockies rookie Antonio Senzatela suffered his first loss in five weeks as he allowed five hits and four runs over five innings to fall to 7-2 with a 3.49 ERA. Catcher Tony Wolters had two of Colorado's four hits.

Senzatela strikes out Segura

"The three runs in the second were still manageable early in the game, but they just really pitched real well today," Rockies manager Bud Black said.

The loss left the Rockies a half-game back of the Dodgers in the National League West at 33-22 as they dropped their third straight to Seattle after opening the week with two losses at Coors Field in the Interleague series.

Double trouble for Senzatela: The 22-year-old Venezuelan ran into trouble in the second when he gave up four of his five hits. And two of those were run-scoring doubles as Valencia pushed a two-run shot into the right-center gap to score Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, with Zunino making it 3-0 when he torched a 111-mph line drive down the left-field line to drive in Valencia. Zunino has doubled in three straight games, something he's done only once before in his career back in 2014. More >>

"I'm feeling comfortable," Zunino said. "Every day it's continuing to grow. Some of the things I'm doing are new, so I'm sticking to my routine in the cage and my drills and trying to be as patient as I can at the plate to get something to drive. The first couple games you get back and it's almost like you have a new toy with a new swing, so you're over-aggressive. When you can slow everything down, the hits have started to come."

Hold it right there: Paxton sailed through the first five frames with just one hit, an infield single in the third. But when Wolters and Charlie Blackmon laced one-out base hits in the sixth, Mariners manager Scott Servais brought in Steve Cishek and the lanky right-hander preserved Paxton's gem by getting D.J. LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado to pop out to second baseman Robinson Cano. Cishek, making just his fifth appearance since coming back from hip surgery, then retired the Rockies in order in the seventh.

"The last thing I wanted to do was let in Pax's runs," Cishek said. "He'd pitched an unbelievable game. The first game back from the DL, that was incredible. He was just fun to watch, pounding the strike zone, and I wasn't about to let in his runs."

Cishek retires LaMahieu

"We have some big pieces coming back. It was encouraging to see what Pax did, and if we can get those other pieces to come back and contribute like he did, we're feeling really good about this club. We know we have a lot of talent here, so we just have to stay in the mix until everybody gets back healthy." -- Zunino

With his 2-for-3 night, Zunino has three multi-hit games in a row for the first time in his career. The 26-year-old catcher had two consecutive multi-hit games three times previously, in July 2014, and May and August 2015. By going 6-for-12 in those trio of games, Zunino has raised his average from .148 to .190.

Zunino's RBI double

Rockies: Kyle Freeland (5-3, 3.43 ERA) earns the start for the Rockies to conclude the two-game Interleague road series at 1:40 p.m. MT. The rookie has been great away from Coors Field this season, posting a 2.89 ERA and 3-0 record in five road starts.

Mariners: Yovani Gallardo (2-5, 5.76 ERA) starts Thursday's 12:40 p.m. PT series finale as he looks to turn around his struggles against the Rockies. In 11 previous games, including 10 starts, the 31-year-old is 0-5 with a 5.70 ERA against Colorado.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Josh Horton is a reporter for based in Seattle. He covered the Rockies on Wednesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.