SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz's stop-and-start season was back on hold Sunday as the Mariners' designated hitter sat out the series finale against the Tigers with a sore elbow after getting hit by a pitch in Saturday's 7-2 win.Cruz has been hit by pitches three times in his last 11 plate appearances.
SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz's stop-and-start season was back on hold Sunday as the Mariners' designated hitter sat out the series finale against the Tigers with a sore elbow after getting hit by a pitch in Saturday's 7-2 win.
Cruz has been hit by pitches three times in his last 11 plate appearances. He missed games on Wednesday and Thursday with a bruised right foot after getting plunked on Tuesday against Texas and now is ailing again after being hit in Saturday's game by an 89 mph Mike Fiers fastball.
Cruz didn't come out of Saturday's contest, but is now 0-for-7 with four strikeouts and one walk over his last three outings. The 37-year-old spent nine games on the disabled list early in the season after spraining his ankle and also missed time in Spring Training with a strained quad, so getting into a rhythm at the plate has been a struggle. He's batting just .228 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 34 games.
Manager Scott Servais said he hopes that with an off-day on Monday, Cruz will be ready to go Tuesday when the Mariners open a three-game road trip to Oakland.
"It just keeps compounding, one on top of the other," Servais said. "So we'll try to calm things down and keep him out of [Sunday's] game. It's really hard not to put him in there, whether he's swinging the bat well or not. His presence in the lineup just changes so many things.
"We've seen the last couple nights, he hasn't done that much offensively other than he gets a walk here or there. But the pitcher has to spend more time with him and more focus on him and it helps the guys around him. We have to get him healthy and right now this is the best thing."
Cruz has been hit by pitches seven times this season, third most in the Majors going into Sunday's games. Kristopher Bryant of the Cubs has been hit nine times and his teammate, Anthony Rizzo, is second with eight.
As a team, the Mariners and Cubs have been hit by pitches the most of any clubs with 28 each. Mariners pitchers have hit opposing batters 26 times, which is third in the Majors behind the Rangers' 34 and White Sox's 27.
Pushing Paxton the distance
James Paxton threw his second complete game of the season -- and his career -- on Saturday, but that feat is becoming more and more rare in MLB. Entering Sunday, only 13 complete games have been thrown this season in the Majors and Paxton and Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco are the only pitchers with two.
The Mariners had just three complete games in the previous two years --Ariel Miranda in 2017 and Taijuan Walker and Wade Miley in '16.
Servais has been careful with Paxton in the past, looking to keep him healthy. He pulled the big lefty after seven innings and 105 pitches in his 16-strikeout game on May 2, with Seattle then blowing the 2-0 lead against the A's.
This time the Mariners had a comfortable 7-2 advantage with Paxton at 104 pitches heading into the ninth, but Servais sent him out to finish the job. His first complete game came in his no-hitter at Toronto on May 8.
The fact Seattle has an off-day on Monday played a big part in letting Paxton go the distance Saturday. The lefty now gets an extra day of rest before his next start Friday against the Twins at Safeco Field, and Servais said pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. noted even before the game that Paxton's "tank is back on full again" after having a week to get past the hoopla of his no-hitter.
"Where we're at, letting Pax ride with it was the overriding theme," Servais said. "He'd earned the right to finish it off. Let's give it to him."
Paxton is the rare starter who gets stronger as he goes and can maintain or raise his upper-90s velocity throughout a full game. He retired the last 15 batters in order Saturday in his 117-pitch outing.
"I find as I go on, I find my rhythm more and more, so I get better and better as the game goes on," Paxton said. "And the adrenaline kind of keeps me from feeling that fatigue."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.