One inter-minable, demoralizing, victory-ruining, pitch-filled, run-fest, hit-spree of an inning doomed the debut of James Paxton and put the Seattle Mariners in a hole they couldn’t climb out of in a 14-6 drubbing by the San Diego Padres on Thursday at Petco Park.
It was a reversal of the game the two teams played Tuesday in Seattle when the Mariners rolled to a 16-4 win.
The old baseball cliche of “momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher” seems applicable.
Paxton, called up to replace the injured Felix Hernandez in the starting rotation—not the easiest of tasks—almost didn’t made it out of the first inning he threw at the big-league level this season.
His teammates gave him a 3-0 first-inning lead on Robinson Cano’s 16th homer of the season — a three-run laser into the right-field stands off Padres starter Christian Friedrich.
A three-run cushion should have softened the landing for Paxton in the bottom of the first, but when he finally got out No. 3 — striking out Friedrich, the ninth hitter of the inning, the lead was gone and the Mariners trailed 6-3.
How did it all go so wrong, particularly when he was throwing a fastball that was touching 98 mph?
Well, there was some poor location on pitches that resulted in big home runs, some bad luck and one very regrettable throwing error.
Paxton retired the first hitter he faced—Jon Jay—on three pitches, getting a ground ball to shortstop.
But the next hitter, Wil Myers, took advantage of a 0-2 fastball that was left up in the zone, driving it over the wall in right field for a solo homer to cut it to 3-1.
The bad luck came when Matt Kemp blooped a single in between Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano in shallow right field for a single. Yangervis Solarte followed with a single up the middle. Paxton could have been out of the inning when Melvin Upton Jr. bounced a chopper back to the mound, or at least have gotten a second out, making things much easier.
Instead, his throw to second was nowhere near the bag, allowing a run to score and Kemp to move to third.
Instead of Derek Norris’ ensuing fly ball ending the inning, it was a sacrifice fly to give the Padres a 4-3 lead.
The lead grew to 6-3. Alexei Ramirez singled and Adam Rosales jumped on a 1-1, 97 mph fastball left over the middle of the plate for a two-run homer. Paxton finally ended the misery on his 37th pitch of the inning by striking out Friedrich.
Paxton did settle down a little. Three straight singles to start the second scored another run to make it 7-3, but he was able to escape the inning without further damage and he worked a scoreless third inning despite a double and an error by Luis Sardinas.
With his pitch count piling up, Paxton never made it out of the fourth. He gave up a single to Solarte and then struck out Upton and Norris. At 103 pitches, he was lifted for reliever Joel Peralta, who immediately gave up a two-run homer to Alexei Ramirez on his second pitch of the outing to make it 9-3.
It left Paxton’s final line: 3 2/3 innings pitched, eight runs (three earned) on 10 hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
Peralta wasn’t much better than Paxton. He gave up two more runs in the fifth inning. In his last 10 appearances, Peralta has allowed 10 runs on 16 hits in nine innings for a 10.00 ERA with five homers.
Steve Johnson couldn’t stop the run barrage, giving up three runs, including Ramirez’s second two-run homer of the game, in his one inning.