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All was right in the Mariners’ world again on Tuesday night.
A night after manager Lloyd McClendon joked that people would think “the world’s caving in right now” and promising his team would be “okay tomorrow” following Monday’s frustrating 2-0 loss, the Mariners responded with a win requisite of their status as a playoff contenders.
Seattle got a solid and much-needed start from rookie James Paxton and the offense provided more than enough production in a decisive 5-0 win over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
“We played a pretty good game,” manager Lloyd McLendon said.
With the win, the Mariners improved to 72-59 on the season. They maintained their 1/2 game lead over the Tigers in the standings for the second wild card and moved within five games of the Oakland A’s, who lead the wild card standings.
While baseball is a game where the worst team can beat the best team on any given night in a 162 game season, it’s also a game where good teams should still win two out of three games in a series, particularly a team in a postseason race.
The Mariners were coldly efficient on what will likely be one of the last warm nights of the summer.
After some inconsistent outings since coming back from the disabled list, Paxton looked more like the pitcher that started the season – overpowering and dominant at times.
“I feel like I’m getting closer,” Paxton said. “I feel like my stuff is coming around a little more each time. I just have to keep pushing forward.”
Paxton threw 6 2/3 shutout innings, giving up just four hits, while walking three and striking out four. He was lifted after walking Robinson Chirinos with two outs in the seventh inning and hit pitch count at 118 – the highest total of his career.
“He needed to be extended to get the rust off a little bit,” McClendon said. “You could see he was stronger as he went on. He’s a big horse. We need to get him going a little bit.”
It was the longest outing for a Mariners’ starting pitcher in the last six games. And it was needed for a bullpen that has been overworked in the last 10 games.
Paxton didn’t mind the extra pitches.
“For me, the big thing is just finding my rhythm,” he said. “Once I find my rhythm I can just let go of the ball as hard as I want.”
The Mariners’ best hitter set the tone immediately. There would be no shutouts by a mediocre starting pitcher on this night.
Robinson Cano made sure there would be runs scored on the night, belting a solo homer to right field in the first inning of Rangers’ starter Nick Martinez.
Cano reached down and drove a low curveball, muscling it over the wall for his 12th homer of the season.
“Lately I don’t feel like what I want to feel,” Cano said. “I haven’t been seeing the ball. When I’m not late, I’m out in front. I don’t feel like I am 100 percent and staying back.”
An inning later Seattle scored on Jesus Sucre’s bases loaded ground ball to third. Former Mariners Adrian Beltre made a ridiculous stop on the bouncing ball that carried him into foul territory. Like he did so many times in a Mariners’ uniform, Beltre unleashed the fury on a laser beam throw across the diamond to get the slow-footed Sucre. While the play drew oohs and ahhs from the fans, Kyle Seager was able to scamper home to make it 2-0.
The Mariners started to pull away in the fourth inning. Logan Morrison drew a lead off walk and Chris Taylor followed with a single up the middle . With runners on first and second and nobody out, McClendon had no interest in playing small ball. Instead, Endy Chavez swung away and rewarded his manager, belting a double to center field over the head of Daniel Robertson to score both runners. Chavez was thrown out trying to advance to third.
“I was blowing on it – ‘go over his head,'” Chavez said making the blowing sounds. “I’m glad the ball fell down and we scored two big runs.”
But the Mariners kept going. Austin Jackson tripled with two outs and scored easily when Dustin Ackley hit a rocket back up the middle past a frightened Martinez to make it 5-0.
That’s all the Mariners would need. They improved to 55-10 when scoring more than four runs in a game this season.
Danny Farquhar gave his bullpen buddies a break, tossing the final 2 1/3 innings, not allowing a run to secure the win.
“Sometimes you come out of a winning series and you lose a game and that wakes up everybody,” Cano said. “No matter what you did in the past, every game means something, every game counts. We are playing baseball now that we know is must win. Yesterday we don’t score any runs and today we come out with energy and score give. We are sending a message to teams.”