ARLINGTON -- James Paxton is searching for answers, and the Mariners hope the solutions come quickly.
A team that kept its pitching patched together despite a series of injuries in the rotation has now lost six of its last nine, and the 10-4 setback to the Rangers on Friday night was particularly troublesome. It was a third straight rough outing by Paxton, who was one of the best lefties in the Majors in April before a strained forearm sidelined him for a month.
"I'm trying to figure it out right now," Paxton said after allowing a season-high seven runs in 3 2/3 innings as he fell to 5-2 with his second straight loss. "Something definitely isn't right. The last few starts you can tell something isn't quite there. I'm healthy. There is no issue with my arm. I'm not hurt. It's just my timing is off. I'm looking at video and trying to figure it out."
Paxton's seven earned runs were the most he's allowed in a game since April 19, 2015, when he gave up seven to the Rangers in 2 2/3 innings. Friday was his shortest outing since his season debut last year when he was called up from Triple-A Tacoma in June and only lasted 3 2/3 on a rough day in San Diego.
This year started out handsomely, as the lanky lefty was 3-0 with a 1.43 ERA in six starts before going on the disabled list and 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA after he came back from that layoff with another strong start.
But in his past three outings, the 28-year-old Canadian is 1-2 with a 9.95 ERA. The wheels got particularly wobbly Friday when he gave up five runs in the third and two more in the fourth before manager Scott Servais pulled the plug.
"The last couple games he just hasn't looked comfortable out there," Servais said. "There's no rhythm to his pitch sequencing and everything looks like a struggle. He's a big part of trying to dig us out of this little hole we've created here. So we've got to get him right and get him back on track."
Paxton dominated the Rangers in April with eight shutout innings while allowing just two hits in a nine-strikeout performance, but he didn't have anywhere near the same command this time, and it was a pair of one-out walks to Delino DeShields and Shin-Soo Choo that torpedoed his third inning.
"I wasn't making good pitches, wasn't filling up the strike zone," Paxton said. "My offspeed stuff was lacking it's bite. Just mushy stuff today, and they did what they're supposed to do with mushy pitches behind in the count. It just wasn't very good at all today."
Paxton wound up needing 40 pitches to get through that frame, which included two-run singles by Adrian Beltre and Jonathan Lucroy. Beltre's shot to center was particularly frustrating as it came after Paxton got ahead 0-2, then left a fastball over the plate.
Despite pitching for much of the past two months without Paxton, as well as Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly, the Mariners have stayed competitive. But back-to-back losses by Paxton and Ariel Miranda, who had been their most consistent starter all year, have been difficult. Both were down early and couldn't get past four frames.
"It does put us in a tough spot," Servais said. "We've been trying to hold it together with glue and everything else around here. You kind of rely on those guys to get you deep into games and give your bullpen and long guys a break and kind of regroup. Our guys are excited to play behind them because they have been pretty consistent. It's just the last couple nights have been rough."