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Paxton again flashes dominant form in Mariners’ victory over Boston

UPDATED: Tue., July 25, 2017, 12:09 a.m.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton throws against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, July 24, 2017, in Seattle. The Mariners won 4-0. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton throws against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, July 24, 2017, in Seattle. The Mariners won 4-0. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
By Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

SEATTLE – The Maple Grove brought along a little maple Monday in support of the Big Maple. Hang on, explanation to follow.

Here’s the key point: James Paxton helped the Mariners erase the sour taste of a lost weekend by pitching seven dominant innings in a 4-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field.

Paxton (10-3) permitted just four hits while matching a career high with 10 strikeouts. He retired the first 13 batters and didn’t walk a batter in a 103-pitch performance.

“My arm just felt really good today,” he said. “I had a big fastball, and it was just coming out easy today. I wasn’t going out there and thinking about throwing 98 or 99 (mph). That’s just what was coming out today.”

It was impressive.

“The stuff was electric tonight,” manager Scott Servais said. “That’s the best word to throw out there, and all of it worked. He struck out 10 guys tonight against a team that just doesn’t strike out. They are a contact team.”

Offensively, the Mariners did enough.

Kyle Seager ignited a three-run second inning against Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez (4-3). The Mariners scored another run in the fourth before their attack hit the snooze button.

Paxton took it from there through the seventh before Nick Vincent and David Phelps completed the shutout, which pulled the Mariners back to 50-51 and kept them 2 1/2 games behind Kansas City in the wild-card race.

Paxton also matched a franchise record by winning for the fifth time in July. It marks the 20th time that a Mariners pitcher has won five games in a single month.

The last to do it was Jason Vargas in July 2012. Jamie Moyer did it four times, while Freddy Garcia did it three times, and Jim Beattie and Mark Langston each did it twice.

Eight other pitchers did it once, including Felix Hernandez in September 2009.

Point to note: Paxton will get one more start in July: Sunday against the New York Mets in the conclusion to a 10-game homestand, which began with three losses in four games to the New York Yankees.

Now about The Maple Grove. That’s what Paxton’s personal cheering section calls itself, and its members hold up “eh” signs whenever Paxton (a Canadian native known as the Big Maple) gets two strikes on a hitter.

Think of it as a spin-off on the K signs waved by Felix Hernandez’s fans in the King’s Court. But The Maple Grove went even further Monday by, somehow, smuggling a small maple tree into the ballpark.

“The past two starts before this one is when they started (with the signs),” Paxton said. “It was definitely bigger tonight, and they had the maple tree out there, which was really cool. I’ve got to meet them.”

Boston didn’t have a baserunner until Jackie Bradley Jr. blooped a one-out single into center field in the fifth inning. Paxton struck out the next two hitters.

The Red Sox put two runners on base with one out in the sixth inning on an error and a ground single but, again, Paxton struck out the next two hitters.

Boston kept coming, though, and opened the seventh inning with singles by Hanley Ramirez and Bradley, which put runners at first and third with no outs.

Paxton struck out Chris Young – his 10th strikeout – before getting Deven Marrero to ground into a double play. Then Vincent for a one-two-three eighth, and Phelps for a one-two-three ninth.

Rodríguez wasn’t as sharp as on May 26, when he pitched six innings in a 3-0 victory over the Mariners at Fenway Park. This time, he gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Seager opened the scoring by leading off the second inning with a homer over the center-field wall.

“That doesn’t happen too often,” he said. “So that was nice. I’m just glad it went out. I’ve hit a couple of balls there that haven’t gone out.”

Ben Gamel’s one-out triple past first base led to another run when he scored on Guillermo Heredia’s fielder’s-choice grounder to first. Ramirez threw high to the plate, and Gamel slid under the tag.

Rodriguez struck out Mike Zunino, but Jean Segura snapped an 0 for 15 skid with an RBI double into the right-center gap.

The Mariners extended their lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning on Danny Valencia’s two-out RBI double.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Segura apparently has a rocket arm. One of his practice throws before the seventh inning ripped through the strings Valencia’s glove at first.

“Segura threw me a ball,” Valencia said, “and it just popped one of the strings. I needed to get another glove. My other first baseman’s glove is not broken in.”

That set off the search for a temporary replacement. Equipment manager Ryan Stiles found one.

“He’s got one that’s broken in pretty well,” Valencia said. “Then they fixed mine.”

PLUS: Paxton recorded his fourth start of the season in which he pitched at least seven innings without allowing a run…Gamel went 2 for 3 and extended his hitting streak to 11 games. He is batting .326 (15-for-46) in his surge…Vincent extended his scoreless streak at home to 23 appearances (covering 26 innings). The franchise record is 24 in a row by George Sherrill in 2007.

MINUS: The Mariners had just six hits. Robinson Cano and Mitch Haniger were each 0 for 4, while Nelson Cruz and Zunino were hitless in three at-bats…Valencia made a wild throw for an error after fielding Brock Holt’s soft grounder in the fifth inning…Heredia is 1 for 5 on stolen-base attempts after getting thrown out at second in the sixth inning.

STAT PACK: Seager’s 32 homers against left-handed pitchers are the most by any left-handed hitter since the start of the 2014 season.

QUOTABLE: The Mariners recently began presenting an award after each series to a player who performs particularly well.

It’s gaudy and somewhat tough to describe. There’s a pair, they’re gold and they hang from a gold chain. Let’s just say if they came from a monkey, they’d be big and brass.

Segura won the award for the Houston series – and went 1 for 19 in four games against the Yankees. A jinx? Well, the award went to Seager for his efforts against the Yankees, and he hit a homer Monday in his first at-bat.

“You wear that (award),” Seager noted, “you’re going to hit .320. The problem was that Segura had to drop 20 points to hit .320. I have to gain about a hundred. So it’s good for me.”

SHORT HOPS: Social media experienced a short-term buzz when word surfaced that Hi-A Modesto outfielder Kyle Lewis, the organization’s top prospect, had been removed from Monday’s game. It wasn’t a trade. Lewis had a sore knee. The non-waiver trade deadline is 1 p.m. on July 31…Boston scratched shortstop Xander Bogaerts because of an illness. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi replaced Bogaerts in the lineup with other players shifting positions…Short-A Everett catcher David Banuelos, a fifth-round pick in June, is the Northwest League player of the week for July 17-23 after going 10 for 24 with 12 RBIs in six games…

ON DECK: The Mariners and Red Sox continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (5-4 with a 3.88 ERA) will oppose Boston left-hander Drew Pomeranz (10-4, 3.51).

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