TORONTO -- James Paxton spent time between his starts with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre tweaking the delivery of his curveball. The adjustments paid off Friday, as the left-hander kept the Blue Jays' potent offense in check over seven innings in Seattle's 2-1 win.Paxton struck out nine while allowing one earned
TORONTO -- James Paxton spent time between his starts with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre tweaking the delivery of his curveball. The adjustments paid off Friday, as the left-hander kept the Blue Jays' potent offense in check over seven innings in Seattle's 2-1 win.
Paxton struck out nine while allowing one earned run on three hits to avoid a third straight loss.
"I was staying on top of the ball," Paxton explained. "Before these starts, I was creeping down a little bit, getting too sidearm, getting too much on the side of the ball, [which] wasn't allowing me to get on top of the curveball. Bringing my arm up a little more has allowed me to get on top of that curveball."
The key moment in Paxton's start came in the sixth inning with Seattle hanging on to a 2-1 lead. With one on and two out, Josh Donaldson doubled, bringing Edwin Encarnacion to the plate.
Paxton (3-4, 4.18 ERA) managed to get the Blue Jays' All-Star swinging on a 2-2 pitch to end the threat.
"We didn't want to give him anything too good to hit," Paxton said of the at-bat. "We were trying to throw my best pitches right there, wanted to get the fastball up in the zone. He was fouling those off. I was just trying to get it up over the barrel, and then the curveball down kind of set him up for that after the fastballs up. He just kind of swung over the top."
Manager Scott Servais saw a drastic improvement in his left-hander in comparison to his previous start, which saw Paxton allow six earned runs on nine hits over five innings in a loss to the Houston Astros on July 15.
"He was a different pitcher tonight, the difference in the breaking balls and the changeups," Servais said. "I know he and Mel had been working on a couple things with his delivery, and it certainly was evident tonight -- his ability to spin it -- best curveball he's had all year. The cutter, he elevated off the fastball.
Three of Paxton's nine punchouts on Friday night came via the curveball -- something that hadn't been happening in previous starts, according to catcher Mike Zunino.
"It hasn't been that consistent. Usually it spikes, or if he doesn't get the right rotation, it fades up," Zunino said. "But it was just so consistent, in the zone to out of the zone every time, and he was able to throw it for strikes. It was just one of those things, he had a great feel for it tonight."
The 27-year-old has now tossed six-plus innings in six of his last nine starts and recorded his fifth quality start of the season. Paxton has won five consecutive starts against American League East opponents, with a 2.48 ERA in those starts.
A native of Ladner, British Columbia, Paxton was originally selected in the first round of the 2009 Draft by the Blue Jays, though he never signed with Toronto. He admitted, given the history with the organization, winning at the Rogers Centre was a little bit more special.
"Yeah, absolutely. It's always cool to play in Canada and get a win here," he said. "It's very cool to get a win in Canada and pitch in front of the Canadian fans and hear the Canadian anthem. That's always special, so it was really fun."
Paxton's lone blemish of the night came in the second when fellow Canadian and former Mariners teammate Michael Saunders took his 3-1 fastball deep for a solo home run.
"He's always had a really good arm, and he's always had really good stuff," Saunders said of Paxton. "I got to see him when he first came up, and I thought he was going to be a special pitcher. Tonight he was hitting his spots, he was keeping us off balance and he's a left-handed arm throwing 100 mph, so he's got good stuff."
Dhiren Mahiban is a contributor for MLB.com based in Toronto.