OAKLAND, Calif. – One key player expected to help the Mariners find additional success in their push to the postseason returned on Tuesday night after an 80-game absence. Unfortunately for Seattle, another player probably even more critical to that hope exited the game with a first-inning injury and the length of his absence is yet to be determined.
One thing is for certain, Robinson Cano, who returned to be a man of multiple positions, can’t fill the role of James Paxton. In fact, no one in the Mariners organization is capable of that.
Oh, and the Mariners lost another game to the Oakland A’s in the key American League West series and another game in the race for second A.L. wild-card spot.
The 3-2 loss was made worse by the sight of Paxton, accompanied by athletic trainer Matt Toth, walking off the field of the Oakland Coliseum three batters into the game, having taken a 96-mph line drive off the bat off Jed Lowrie squarely off his left forearm.
Paxton had X-rays on the injured forearm, which came back negative. He was diagnosed with a “left forearm contusion.”
Felix Hernandez, who had been moved to the bullpen during the previous series in Houston, made his first big-league relief appearance in a situation as close to a start as possible. Given as much time as needed to warm up, Hernandez took it, but looked sluggish, walking the first batter he faced. But he was able to get an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play that allowed him to catch his breath.
Hernandez came back with a 1-2-3 second inning, but a two-out walk to Matt Chapman in the third allowed Lowrie to come to the plate. It proved costly when Lowrie pulled a fly just over the wall in the shortest part of right field for a two-run homer and a 3-1 lead.
Hernandez didn’t allow a run the rest of the way, pitching 5 2/3 total innings, allowing just the two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. If Paxton can’t make his next start, which is very possible if not likely, then Hernandez will take his spot.
Meanwhile, the Mariners mustered two runs against a pitcher they could’ve claimed on waivers to either block the A’s from acquiring or used to bolster their own starting rotation. Right-hander Mike Fiers, who was acquired on a waiver trade from the Tigers, pitched six innings, allowing two runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Fiers gave up a first-inning run and a solo homer to Cameron Maybin in the fifth inning, but used a stellar A’s defense to get the win.
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