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Paxton opens Toronto visit fresh off 16-K gem

Canadian lefty focused on approach after career performance
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- When James Paxton takes the mound Tuesday in Toronto, he'll enjoy another opportunity to pitch back in his native Canada. But more than anything, the 29-year-old from British Columbia will be looking to carry forward the success he found in his dominant seven-inning start in his previous outing.

"I'm not going to go out and strike out 16 every time," Paxton said Sunday before the Mariners closed a series with the Angels to wrap up a homestand. "But just the approach. I think I've found a good way to approach the game for me, and that's what I'll be focusing on."

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SEATTLE -- When James Paxton takes the mound Tuesday in Toronto, he'll enjoy another opportunity to pitch back in his native Canada. But more than anything, the 29-year-old from British Columbia will be looking to carry forward the success he found in his dominant seven-inning start in his previous outing.

"I'm not going to go out and strike out 16 every time," Paxton said Sunday before the Mariners closed a series with the Angels to wrap up a homestand. "But just the approach. I think I've found a good way to approach the game for me, and that's what I'll be focusing on."

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What Paxton did Wednesday against the A's was overpower hitters with a blistering fastball that he kept up in the zone far more than usual. Surely the Blue Jays will be looking for that approach as well, but the A's certainly never solved it as he recorded 16 of his 21 outs by strikeout while allowing five hits and a walk in seven scoreless frames.

Toronto will counter on Tuesday with right-hander Marcus Stroman, who is 0-4 with a 7.52 ERA but is coming off his strongest outing. Stroman allowed two runs over seven innings Wednesday in the Blue Jays' 4-0 loss at Minnesota.

Paxton is 1-1 with a 4.19 ERA in seven starts, but his numbers don't indicate the quality of pitcher he can be when on top of his game. And to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., a lot of that comes with staying at the top of the strike zone in key spots rather than trying to be too fine on the edges.

"The up and down was huge for me," Stottlemyre said. "I like the up for him. It's tough to get on top of a 97-98 [mph fastball]. You look at all the great power pitchers in the game and they might be down early. [Justin Verlander] and [Max Scherzer] and [Chris Sale] and guys like that, they're able to elevate at the top of the zone when they get in good counts, and that's what Pax did."

Video: OAK@SEA: Servias discusses Paxton's 16-K outing

Paxton has had dominant stretches in the past. He went 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 24 starts last season, including 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA with 46 strikeouts and six walks in six sterling starts in July. But he's never dominated a single game like he did Wednesday, throwing 80 strikes in 105 pitches.

"We've seen a couple different sides of Paxton in the past," Stottlemyre said. "A lot of confidence weighs in. When he's trying to throw to spots and being a little bit of a pitch maker, it takes away a little of that life. Mike Zunino has done a wonderful job back there, trying to give him some plate -- keeping all of the glove on the plate -- and letting that thing eat. And you see the confidence build as the game goes on."

The lingering question from his last start was why Paxton didn't pitch deeper into the game, which Seattle wound up losing 3-2 when the A's scored three runs off Juan Nicasio and Edwin Diaz in the final two frames.

Stottlemyre pushed for that decision after a 25-pitch seventh inning, when Paxton had to dig deep after a single and walk to keep the score at 2-0.

"When I went out [to the mound before Paxton's last batter], I told him to empty his tank," Stottlemyre said. "They had a couple guys on, and they're all dangerous hitters. He'd spent some bullets in that inning.

"Certainly we're going to allow him to go 115 pitches. It's a long season. It's a balance of you have your horse out there and I know you need to let him run, but you can't let him out of the barn every game, all year long if we're trying to keep him healthy. This ballclub, this rotation needs our big three guys to stay healthy."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, James Paxton