DETROIT – James Paxton had to work a lot harder this time around than his first two forays on to a big-league mound.
The Detroit Tigers are running away with their division and showed Paxton on Thursday why there are few easy outs in their lineup. They waited him out, then took massive cuts when he threw pitches near the strike zone, eventually securing a 5-4 win with some late runs off the Mariners’ bullpen.
For Paxton, the no-decision in which he held Detroit to three runs for five tough innings was a welcomed learning experience.
“Today was definitely a battle,” Paxton said. “I didn’t have my best stuff and it was one of those games where I just had to grind it out. I just did my best to keep my team in the game and give them a chance.”
That he did after falling behind 3-1 by the third inning. Detroit got a solo homer from Torii Hunter and a run-scoring double by Victor Martinez in the first inning, then saw Paxton walk home a run on four pitches in the third.
Paxton walked four batters – two intentionally – and also surrendered two doubles to Prince Fielder. But he held the Tigers from there and was actually given a 4-3 lead in the fifth when Dustin Ackley lined a three-run homer off onetime Mariners starter Doug Fister.
But the Tigers took the lead for good in the seventh when Fielder launched a bloop single to right field to tie it off Charlie Furbush – traded to Seattle for Fister two years ago. Fielder then scored all the way from first for the second time in the game on a Martinez double, called safe at home despite catcher Mike Zunino appearing to tag him out in time.
“I know I got him, that’s without a question,” Zunino said. “But it’s one of those where he (the umpire) said he got his foot in there.”