SEATTLE -- James Paxton has struggled a bit to find his groove this season, but the man known as Big Maple was on target Wednesday night as he recorded the most strikeouts by a pitcher in the Major Leagues this season with 16 in seven scoreless innings in a 3-2
SEATTLE -- James Paxton has struggled a bit to find his groove this season, but the man known as Big Maple was on target Wednesday night as he recorded the most strikeouts by a pitcher in the Major Leagues this season with 16 in seven scoreless innings in a 3-2 loss to the A's at Safeco Field.
"I had probably the best fastball I've had in my career today," Paxton said. "It was jumping. We were using the top of the zone and guys were swinging right through it."
But Oakland spoiled Paxton's strikeout party with a pair of home runs off the Mariners' bullpen, with a two-run blast by Jed Lowrie off Juan Nicasio tying the game in the eighth, and Mark Canha winning it with a solo shot off closer Edwin Diaz in the ninth.
It was just the second run -- and first homer -- off Diaz in 16 1/3 innings this season. The loss was the second in the past eight games for Seattle (17-12), though the Mariners remain 1 1/2 games behind the Astros in the American League West.
"It's tough. We want to win, especially a game like that," Paxton said. "Our offense has been awesome. Those guys are great. And our bullpen has been lights-out. It was just one of those nights the guys just didn't have it. Those are going to happen. It was unfortunate it was tonight, but those guys have been awesome and I still fully expect them to go out there and shut it down."
Paxton blew past his career-best of 10 strikeouts, which he'd equaled twice this season, including his previous outing at Cleveland, while allowing five hits with one walk.
With the no-decision, Paxton remains 1-1 in seven starts on the season, though his ERA dropped from 5.12 to 4.19 with the dominant outing. The last AL pitcher with 16-plus strikeouts and no runs allowed to earn a no-decision was Vida Blue for the A's on July 9, 1971, vs. the Angels in a 20-inning game.
Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole both have had 14 strikeouts in games this season for the Astros.
Paxton's 16 strikeouts ties him for the fourth-most in Mariners history, behind three Randy Johnson outings of 19, 19 and 18. Johnson also had two 16-strikeout games and Mike Moore and Mark Langston had one each.
Paxton's final strikeout was a big one as he set down Jake Smolinski with a 97 mph fastball to strand runners and first and second and preserve a 2-0 lead.
But the A's rallied against NIcasio, who leads the Majors in holds, as well as Diaz, the MLB saves leader and the Mariners offense came up empty despite having two on with one out in the seventh and the bases loaded in the eighth and ninth.
"Paxton was nasty today," said Diaz. "He was unbelievable. We should have kept the lead and given him the opportunity to win, but we didn't have our day today. That's part of the game and we'll be ready for tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Diaz had been absolutely dominant in his first 15 outings and was named the AL Reliever of the Month for April earlier in the day, but he made one mistake to Canha on a 95-mph fastball that leaked over the plate and paid the price on the game-winning home run.
"I missed my location on that pitch," Diaz said. "After that I did my job, but it was bad luck for me today missing that pitch. I was trying to go away and I missed in the middle. He was ready for that fastball and he hit it pretty good."
Paxton threw 105 pitches, including 80 strikes. Thirty of those were swinging strikes, the most in the Majors this season. The previous high was 25 swinging strikes by Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and Noah Syndergaard of the Mets.
"There were no secrets," said Servais. "They knew what he was going to throw. He knew what he was going to throw. He just overpowered them. Which doesn't happen very often in this league. These guys are the best in the world with the bat in their hands and this was as dominant as I've seen him. It was awesome to watch."
HE SAID IT
"I had a feeling. Our bullpen has been so good. Nicasio and Diaz have been unbelievable and I'm sure they'll continue to be unbelievable. So I had a feeling that would happen and he'd go to the bullpen there. At some point hopefully I'll be able to go deeper in the game and go past that pitch count, but I totally understand the decision." -- Paxton on being replaced in the eighth inning after throwing 105 pitches
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Mariners got an extra shot in the bottom of the ninth when Dee Gordon initially was ruled out on a bang-bang play at first on a ground ball to second baseman Lowrie. After checking the tape, the call was reversed and the Mariners had the bases loaded for the second straight inning against A's closer Blake Treinen. But Treinen got Jean Segura to ground out to third to end the game.
Veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc makes his first start since 2016 for the Mariners in Thursday's series finale against the A's at 7:10 p.m. PT. He'll have a tough matchup as Oakland counters with left-hander Sean Manaea (4-2, 1.03 ERA), who has a no-hitter and AL Pitcher of the Month Award to his credit already. LeBlanc moves from long relief to a starting role in place of the injured Erasmo Ramirez.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB