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The Mariners hit their magic winning threshold of four runs in the first four innings and played add-on while cruising to a 7-2 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of a sell out crowd of 42,385 fans at Comerica Park.
It was the Mariners’ fifth straight and the 11th in their last 14 games. At 66-55, they are 11 games over .500. That hasn’t happened since the 2007 season when they finished 88-74
Seattle scored three runs off of Detroit starter Rick Porcello in the second inning with Logan Morrison and Endy Chavez delivering key run-scoring singles.
Robinson Cano pushed the lead to 4-0 when he led off the third inning with a solo homer deep right field on the first pitch – a hanging curveball – he saw from Porcello. It was his 11th homer of the season and made it 4-0.
The Mariners are 49-10 this season when scoring four runs or more.
“We know what our record is when we score four or more,” Morrison said. “And that’s what we are trying to do every night – four or more.”
But they were focused on the “more” in this game.
The Tigers got a run back in the bottom of the third off of Seattle starter James Paxton on a fielder’s choice. But his teammates answered against Porcello with a run in the fourth on a RBI single from Chris Taylor and another in the fifth on a run-scoring single from Kyle Seager. Porcello’s string of five straight quality starts ended. He pitched six innings giving up six runs (five earned) on 10 hits.
“Rick didn’t have his best stuff tonight,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He elevated a little bit and we had some good at-bats.”
The six runs were more than enough for Paxton, who battled through command and efficiency issues, but still gave the Mariners six solid innings on 99 pitches. He allowed one run on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts to improve to 3-0 on the season. He’s now 6-0 in nine career starts.
“It was definitely a battle tonight,” he said. “I didn’t have good feel for my release point on my offspeed stuff. Fastball was good and I’m lucky it was.”
But there is no luck when it comes Paxton’s fastball, which ranges from 94-98 mph. It’s an exceptional pitch. It’s what allowed him to maneuver through a dangerous Tigers’ lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez without being able to spot his curveball or changeup and still limit damage.
“He’s always around the zone with the fastball and everything is based off that,” said catcher Mike Zunino. “His curveball was sharp but he couldn’t find it for a strike, but they both play off each other. He threw the changeup just enough for a strike when he needed to. He’s got such a good fastball. It was enough to get some outs and keep them off balance.”
Even with the lack of command, Paxton still showed the curveball and the changeup, even if it meant Zunino taking an extra beating by blocking pitches in the dirt.
“He doesn’t want to put any pitches to the side,” Zunino said. “We continued to use all of them and that’s enough to put some doubt in the hitters’ minds and keep them off balance.”
Paxton was appreciative of Zunino’s efforts.
“He blocked up some good balls today,” Paxton said. “Those curveballs were bouncing just a bit early. He blocked them all. There’s no one better back there.”
Here’s the numbers from Brooksbaseball.net.
He threw 19 curveballs and just seven were strikes, but he did generate swings on the strikes. And that’s important that he was still able to show the pitch enough to keep it viable.
Check out where some of his knucklecurves ended up.
The stingy Mariners’ bullpen did give up a rare run in eighth inning. Dominic Leone walked Miguel Cabrera with two outs, wild pitched him to second and then surrendered a RBI single to Victor Martinez to make it 6-2.
That’s all the runs the Tigers would muster, making it 13 straight games in which the Mariners have not allowed more than three runs. It tied them for the longest streak in the American League since 2000. Last season, the Royals also had 13 straight starts. Seattle will go for 14 straight on Saturday with Felix Hernandez on the mound.
Brad Miller got the run back in the ninth, tripling to start the inning and scoring when Taylor was caught in a run down after getting picked off at first base. Miller replaced Robinson Cano in the bottom of the eighth inning. Cano fouled a ball of the instep of his foot and was limping noticeably after running out a ground ball to shortstop.
“It’s just a little sore,” McClendon said. “He should be okay for tomorrow. I just didn’t want to take a chance. We took him out to get treatment. Hopefully it doesn’t swell on him.”
Chris Taylor on this ridiculous play … “I knew it was hit hard enough to where I had a shot at first. I ended up giving LoMo an in-between hop, and he made a great play just to keep it in front. But he actually made the play and got the out. He saved me a couple of times tonight.”