Paxton Shines, Bats Come Alive In Mariners Home Opener

SEATTLE (CBS) – Looking to put a rough first week of the regular season behind them, the Seattle Mariners returned to Safeco Field for the first home game of the 2017 season.

With a crowd of 44,856 in attendance, Seattle topped the Astros 6-0, as the Mariners finally delivered with runners in scoring position and James Paxton picked up his first win of the season.

“I felt really good today. The crowd was great. Once we started scoring some runs, they got really excited and I fed on that,” Paxton said his post-game interview.

Paxton was solid through seven innings of work. The lefty followed up his first outing of the year — a two-hit, six inning, scoreless appearance in Houston — with a similar line. Paxton allowed just four hits, zero runs and struck out eight in his second home opening start for Seattle.

“It really started with Paxton. Awesome job today keeping a very good hitting team down,” manager Scott Servais said.

“Good stuff. Mixed in all his pitches… I really tip my hat to Pax. He was the story of the day for us.”

Through the first few innings, it looked like the Mariner’s sluggish offense had followed them back to Safeco Field.

In the third inning, Seattle had runners at first and second with no outs, but failed to score any runs.

In the fourth, they had the bases loaded, but again couldn’t pick up the final hit to bring anyone home.

“We created opportunity, the middle lineup guys got on, behind it the strikeouts got us,” Servais said.

Third time was the charm, though, and in the bottom of the fifth, the Mariners offense broke through.

After a pair of doubles by Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger, Seattle found themselves with runners at second and third with just one out. The Astros elected to intentionally walk Robinson Cano to load the bases, and that brought Nelson Cruz to the plate.

Cruz, who was just two for 25 through the Mariners first seven games, lined a base hit up the middle to score two. Kyle Seager followed up with a sacrifice fly to right field to give Seattle a 3-0 lead.

The Mariners carried over the scoring to the next few innings.

In the sixth, Haniger knocked a base hit to right with two on, and Mike Zunino came around from second to score. Jarrod Dyson headed for third, and would score on a throwing error after the ball got past Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.

An inning later, after Cruz singled and Seager doubled off the right field wall, Danny Valencia picked up an RBI with a sac fly to deep center.

The offensive outburst is a welcomed sign for the Mariners, who in their first four games in Houston averaged just over one run per game.

“We have a lot of fight in us. We’ve got some grind in our team. And it was a rough week, there’s no doubt about it.,” Servais said.

“Our guys really did take a new approach in going about it.”

After Sunday’s late collapse, nerves were expectedly high heading into the final innings. Yet relievers Dan Altavilla and Evan Scribner took care of business in the eight and ninth.

Altavilla got into a bases-loaded jam with just one out, but struck out Carlos Correa, and then got Beltran to fly out to Seager to escape the inning unscathed.

Scribner worked a 1-2-3 ninth as Seattle turned in their first shutout of the 2017 season.

For Paxton, the start was not only an important one for him, but also crucial for the team as a whole.

“Coming into today, I knew it was big to get us back on the right foot. We did what we needed to do. We won the ballgame and hopefully that can turn things around for us here,” Paxton said.

The three game series with the Astros continues Tuesday, as Ariel Miranda takes the mound for Seattle, squaring off against Houston youngster Joe Musgrove.

In his first start of the season, Miranda gave up five hits and two earned runs, with three walks and four strikeouts in a no decision against the Astros.

OTHER NOTES:

Jean Segura left the game with a right hamstring strain at the end the third. Originally thought to have been caused after diving back to the base on an unassisted double to end the inning, Servais indicated during post game the injury came earlier in the game.

“It’s day to day right now. Tweaked his hammy a little bit. We’ll have a better idea tomorrow when he comes in. But it’s very mild. Fingers crossed that he’s going to be ok tomorrow or the next day.

Segura had been the Mariners most successful hitter to start the season, with a .333 batting average, three RBIs and a home run. Taylor Motter replaced him at shortstop, going 0-3.

Mitch Haniger continues to piece together an impressive start to the season. The rookie, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the trade that swapped Taijuan Walker for Segura, had two more base hits in Monday’s win. Haniger is now batting .242 with three home runs, nine runs scored and five RBIs through the first eight games. Going into the Mariners’ home opener, Haniger’s was tied for most RBIs in Major League Baseball among rookies.

—The Mariners moved to 25-16 in home openers with the win over Houston. Seattle has won four of the last five home openers dating back to 2013 when they topped the Astros 3-0.

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