James Paxton had never pitched against the New York Yankees.
His welcome was not so pleasant.
Paxton endured much of the same frustrations most of the Seattle Mariners’ pitchers endured against the Yankees’ lineup. Facing 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge and 6-foot-6 Giancarlo Stanton back-to-back has to be among one of the more unpleasant scenarios for left-handed pitchers.
Judge and Stanton almost hit back-to-back homers against Paxton in the first inning — if not for Mitch Haniger’s incredible robbery of Stanton, who just the night before had walked off with a game-ending home run. But Judge’s two-run shot and a two-run blast by designated hitter Miguel Andujar in the inning was enough for New York to send the Mariners off with three consecutive losses to begin their 11-day road trip.
The Mariners did do what they do best, rallying to make this a game in the end. But their 4-3 loss moved their season record to 46-29 with three games in Boston to face the Red Sox looming over the next three days.
“Our guys are not down at all,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters afterward. “They competed really well today … we just couldn’t get the big one to get over the hump, and we have been getting it and riding it. Just didn’t happen today.”
The Mariners are now 4-9 against the best of the American League — the Houston Astros (2-4), Red Sox (2-2) and Yankees (0-3). They’re also in the midst of their longest losing streak of the season, which is now at four games.
“We were right in a couple of games the past few days,” Servais said. “But you have to get the big hits on the road. We just didn’t get it done the way we wanted to. It doesn’t detract or take away from anything we’ve done to this point and we’ll go to Boston and keep playing.”
Paxton’s 3-2 pitch to Judge in the first inning was supposed to be a fastball away. It tailed in and Judge took him the opposite way over the short porch in field (382 feet). Andujar’s went 339 feet to right, not a home run in most ballparks.
Paxton settled down and went on to pitch four scoreless innings after the first. He allowed four hits in the first inning, three after that and struck out nine, ending his day after 107 pitches.
“Some close pitches that didn’t go our way,” Servais said. “But give them some credit, they worked the pitch count up there, but they also hit some balls in good spots.”
And in the second inning, it was Kyle Seager’s turn to use that short porch.
Seager got ahold of Luis Severino’s 90-mph changeup and hit a two-run home run to cut the Yankees’ lead in half. Ben Gamel added a two-out RBI single to score Nelson Cruz in the sixth to make it a 4-3 game.
Then the Yankees’ bullpen.
They sent out 6-8, 100-mph throwing Dellin Betances for the eighth inning before 6-4, 100-mph throwing Aroldis Chapman for the ninth.
Still, the Mariners had runners on in both innings. But Guillermo Heredia was thrown out trying to steal second to end the eighth and Dee Gordon struck out with pinch-runner Chris Herrmann at second to end the ninth.
“Tough games, obviously, but that’s a good team over there,” Haniger said. “I still like our guys in the clubhouse. We’re going to give them a battle and I’m looking forward to playing them again.”