SEATTLE (AP) — James Paxton is trying to remain optimistic that he’s not about to be sidelined by another nagging injury.
It’s not what the Seattle Mariners need considering how Paxton was pitching before Thursday night.
“I’m staying positive and I don’t think it’s going to be anything too big,” Paxton said. “Hopefully we’ll find out tomorrow, but right now it has pretty good movement and it already feels better than it did an hour ago so hopefully by tomorrow it will feel much better.”
Paxton was pulled in the fifth inning after injuring the middle finger of his pitching hand in the Mariners’ 5-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Facing Brandon Moss, who homered earlier in the game, Paxton began shaking his left hand after missing high with a 2-0 pitch. Immediately, manager Lloyd McClendon and trainer Rob Nodine came from the dugout and moments later, Paxton was headed back with him.
Paxton (3-3) will be re-evaluated Friday.
“Just felt a little twinge and just got kind of sore. They didn’t want to chance it so they took me out of there,” Paxton said.
Seattle looked lethargic coming off a nine-game road trip and the long return flight after closing out a series at Tampa Bay on Wednesday and it didn’t help that Paxton wasn’t sharp. He needed to be close to perfect facing Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.
“He works hard. He doesn’t run out of gas,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of Kluber. “His last pitch was probably his best fastball of the night. He’s kind of built himself so he can go out and do what he needs to do for as long as he needs to.”
Kluber struck out 13 in seven innings to win his third straight decision. Kluber, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, improved to 3-0 with 50 strikeouts and two walks in his last four starts.
Kluber (3-5) gave up a pair of home runs to Mike Zunino in the third and Dustin Ackley in the sixth, but Seattle was able to mount little otherwise. Kluber earned his first road victory of the season.
Eight of the final nine outs recorded by Kluber came via strikeout. He threw 112 pitches, one off his season high of 113 when he struck out 18 against St. Louis.
“Right when you think you have him, he drops another pitch on you,” Ackley said. “He’s tough, throws hard; I mean that’s why he won the Cy Young last year.”
Jason Kipnis continued his hot May with two hits and two RBIs. Kipnis entered the night hitting .447 in May and added a pair of singles, along with an RBI groundout in the sixth inning after Jose Ramirez led off with a double.
Moss also homered in the second inning off Paxton, his eighth of the season. It was the first home run allowed to a left-handed hitter in Paxton’s young career.
CRUZ ON OUT
Two of Kluber’s bigger strikeouts came against Nelson Cruz, the major league leader in homers. Kluber struck out Cruz with two on and two outs in the fifth, then beat him with a fastball in the seventh with a runner on.
Cruz had struck out once in 13 career at-bats against Kluber entering Thursday night.
Indians: RHP Scott Atchison was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a sprained ankle. Manager Terry Francona said the injury happened a few weeks ago, but Atchison finally needed to take the time for it to heal properly.
Mariners: 2B Robinson Cano didn’t start after experiencing flu symptoms, but came on as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. … RHP Hisashi Iwakuma played catch Thursday, his first time throwing since suffering a setback in his recovery from a muscle strain in his side and back.
Indians: Trevor Bauer (4-1) goes for his third straight victory. Over his last three starts, Bauer has a 1.21 ERA, but is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in two career starts against Seattle.
Mariners: Taijuan Walker (1-5) will try to rebound from two straight subpar starts. Walker lasted just 3 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and four runs in a no decision against Baltimore, then allowed six hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings in a loss at Toronto.
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