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September 22, 2014 at 7:58 PM

Blue Jays 14, Mariners 4 — the playoff dream is fading

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AP photo

 

It’s the main reason the Mariners are playing meaningful games in September, and it could be the main reason the remaining six games will have lost all of their meaning.

After consistently carrying the team though extended offensive dead periods and slumps, the Mariners’ starting pitching has started crumbling at the worst possible time. And it may be result in the collapse of Seattle’s 2014 playoff run.

In desperate need of a win to keep pace with the Royals and A’s, the Mariners were optimistic with James Paxton getting the start on Monday. He’d been their best pitcher of late.

But pitching in his native Canada, against the team that once drafted him, Paxton faltered in the worst outing of his young big league career and his teammates weren’t much better in a 14-4 clunker of a loss.

Seattle fell to 83-73, having lost 10 of its last 15 games. The Mariners fell to two games behind the Royals in the wild card standings.

They have six games left in the season. They don’t need to win them all, but they probably can’t lose more than two of them.

“Each game you lose is the time of the year gets magnified,” Seager said. “But at the same time, it’s our job to bounce back and keep grinding. We can’t win all six games in one night.”

Manager Lloyd McClendon was asked if he would address the situation with his team.

“My guys will be ready to play tomorrow,” he said. “What do you want me to say to them? That these are the biggest games of the year? They know what’s at stake. They aren’t little kids in there.”

On a day when McClendon announced that he was pulling Chris Young from his scheduled start on Thursday because of ineffectiveness, having Paxton struggle was not ideal.

The big left-hander never looked comfortable from the first pitch, despite being given a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

But it started as he warmed up in the Rogers Centre bullpen.

“The ball didn’t feel right coming out of my hand,” he said.

Paxton gave up a one-out single to Jose Bautista and then walked the next two batters to load the bases. They were quickly unloaded by Danny Valencia, who laced a triple to the left-center to make it 3-1.  It was the first extra base hit Paxton had allowed in five starts.

Those three runs were more than Paxton had given up in the first 15 starts of his big league career.

“I think he was little too amped coming home,” McClendon said. “He couldn’t control the strike zone.”

But that total would only grow.

Steve Tolleson’s two-out single made it 4-1.

Paxton avoided more runs in the second inning thanks to Chris Denorfia throwing out Bautista at the plate for the third out of the inning.

He never made it out of the third. With two outs and bases loaded, Jose Reyes singled off the glove of Kyle Seager to score a run.

“The turf is hard because we don’t play here much,” Seager said. “I got a tweener there and I thought it was going to bounce a little higher than it did. It skipped a little. It was a hard play but if I’m able to make it, then we are out of the inning.”

Paxton then walked Bautista with the bases loaded to make it 6-1. That ended his night.

But he still got a few more runs charged to his line with Brandon Maurer wild pitching a run home and Chris Taylor committing an error at shortstop.

When the third out was finally recorded and the inning mercifully came to end, the Mariners were down, 9-1.

“It all seemed like a blur,” Paxton said. “I think I wanted it too much. I got a little to into it. It got away from me. I didn’t have good feel for anything.”

Paxton’s final line – 2 2/3 innings pitched, nines runs allowed (eight earned) on seven hits with six walks and a strikeout – looked familiar.

On Sunday, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched just 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.

The day before that Young lasted three innings, giving up seven runs on eight hits, including four home runs allowed.

A great offensive team cannot overcome those types of starting pitching outings. And the Mariners aren’t even a good offensive team.

A comeback was out of the question. It was only a matter of how ugly the final score would be.

It got downright homely as the Mariners’ bullpen combined to give up five runs and allowing three homers.

Seattle got solo home runs from Seager (25) and Denorfia (2) after the game was well out of reach.

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