ST. LOUIS – Could the talk of “The Big Three” live again?
Mercifully, for the sake of the members of that now defunct moniker, let’s hope it does not. For the Seattle Mariners’ trio of pitching prospects – Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen – the nickname unfairly dubbed on them during the 2012 spring training became more burden than boast, leading to elevated expectations and unrealistic hopes for them to be in the big leagues by the 2012 season.
The label seemed to have finally gone the way of “new Coke” and disappeared after none of the three made it to the big leagues in 2012.
But in this last month of the 2013 season, Walker and Paxton have made strong cases to be considered for the 2014 starting rotation.
On Saturday night with 41,374 fans crammed into Busch Stadium, Paxton delivered a stellar performance, tossing six shutout innings, allowing two hits, while striking out five and walking two to lead the Mariners to a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The win snapped a five-game Seattle losing streak.
“He was really good again today, obviously against a very good ball club in their backyard with a big crowd in the middle of September,” manager Eric Wedge said of Paxton. “It was nice to see him step up like that.”
Paxton has allowed one run in two starts and 12 innings pitched. He is the second Mariners pitcher to open his big-league career with back-to-back starts of at least six innings pitched with one or fewer runs allowed. Erik Hanson had back-to-back 7 1/3-inning outings, allowing no earned runs in 1988.
“I think it’s the most relaxed and the best he’s pitched since I’ve been catching him,” M’s catcher Mike Zunino said.