Aug 29, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez (21) is congratulated after hitting a home run during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Rookie James Paxton gave Mariner fans an encore presentation to his Major League debut of a week ago. The young lefty pitched six strong innings allowing only two hits and two walks while striking out five as the Mariners beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1.
Franklin Gutierrez knocked in two runs in the top of the 5th, Kendrys Morales hit a solo home run in the 8th and Carlos Triunfel knocked in an insurance run in the 9th. One of the runs scored in the 5th was Paxton, who walked on four pitches while trying to lay down a bunt. No Mariner pitcher has hit safely this season, but Paxton joins Felix Hernandez as the only ones to score a run this year.
Despite the offensive production Saturday, the Mariners still managed to strand eight on base and batted 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
But the story of the night was Paxton’s. The rookie southpaw gave Mariners fans something to cheer about in an otherwise dismal September. Paxton now stands at 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in his first two big league starts.
Paxton, 24, became just the second Mariners starter to open his Major League career with back-to-back starts of at least six innings with one or fewer earned runs allowed, joining, of all people, Erik Hanson back in 1988.
And he was able to accomplish this feat against the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cardinals. Both teams in the hunt for playoff spots.
As the season winds down, the Mariners can only hope to play spoiler for their remaining opponents. After failing to do so on Friday, the M’s accomplished the feat on Saturday. The loss for the Cardinals dropped them back into a tie for first-place in the NL Central with Pittsburgh.
The series wraps on on Sunday, though the numbers don’t support an encore. The Mariners are batting .212 as a team on Sundays in 2013 (last in MLB) while the Cardinals are batting .281 (4th in MLB).
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