"I'm learning when I don't have my best stuff, how do I get these lineups out and how do I grind through and get through six and seven innings and give our team a chance to win?" he said. "So that's what I'll look at."
Paxton, recalled from Triple-A Tacoma last month to fill in for an injured Felix Hernandez, was on a streak of quality starts going into Sunday's game, which the Mariners lost 11-6. Since a rough season debut in San Diego June 1, Paxton had gone six or more innings in four games with a 2.77 ERA.
He looks like a different pitcher from the one who was pulled after 3 2/3 innings against the Padres, having allowed eight runs (three earned) on 10 hits. Part of that is a better command of his secondary pitches and part of that is confidence, manager Scott Servais said before Sunday's game.
Despite the results, his outing against the Cardinals was no different.
"I don't think he backed off at all," Servais said. "I don't think that was an issue. I think he still feels good about where he's at, he just had one of those days. They have a good hitting club and hit some balls in good spots today. I don't think it'll shake his confidence by any means. I think he's picked up a lot over the last four or five outings and hopefully this one doesn't set him back at all."
Paxton kicked off his start by allowing two consecutive extra base hits: a Matt Carpenter triple and an Aledmys Diaz double. Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta jogged out to the mound to settle his pitcher down.
Paxton said Iannetta's message was, "Hey, start over right here. Just get to the top of the ball and drive it right to me."
Down 1-0, Paxton regained his composure. In the next three innings, he held the Cardinals scoreless and only allowed two singles. He struggled to keep his fastball down, so they mixed in more off-speed pitches. His changeup felt good.
"It got me out of some at bats and got some outs for me," Paxton said.
Paxton opened the fifth inning by striking out Carpenter. But the next three batters hit doubles to score two runs, and Brandon Moss hit an RBI triple. Jedd Gyorko reached on Kyle Seager's error, and Moss scored. Paxton got out of the inning by striking out Tommy Pham and getting Kolten Wong to line out to left.
"He pitched really well all the way through," Iannetta said. "He only made a few mistakes, and in the inning he gave up the most runs I really don't know if he did make a mistake."
Of the eight hits Paxton allowed, six were for extra bases. He threw 101 pitches in five innings.
"The (stat) line doesn't really match the performance," Iannetta said.
Maddie Lee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle.