Mariners pitching coach: James Paxton’s smirk showed he knew ‘this thing’s gonna happen’
At the end of the seventh inning Tuesday night in Toronto, Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. saw something from James Paxton that indicated he knew something special was going to happen.
“I saw James come off the field and he had a smirk,” Stottlemyre told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk on Wednesday (listen here), the morning after Paxton became the first Canadian pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Canada.
That smirk was a product of an amazing defensive play made by third baseman Kyle Seager to preserve Paxton’s no-hitter, just one of several big outs made in the field behind the Big Maple.
“I just know as a pitcher, the feeling of you know he got to that point, and the defense had just been brilliant,” Stottlemyre said. “From the play that (Ben) Gamel made with the Russell Martin ball to the track, to Dee-Dee (Dee Gordon) coming in and getting the ball, and certainly those plays by Seager. You just gotta smile as a pitcher.
“I think he came off the field with that smirk thinking, ‘Alright, I’ve got this far, those guys have made those plays – this thing’s gonna happen.’”
Another big factor in Paxton’s no-hitter: the 29-year-old left-hander’s evolution on the mound. Paxton has always been able to throw hard and a good curveball to go with it, but Stottlemyre spoke about how he’s developed past being a pitcher who just had raw ability.
“This is a guy with great stuff and he has really learned how to pitch. I’m not gonna call him a Greg Maddux or a pitch-maker by any means, but he understands the value of getting ahead and being in good spots, and he needs to do that (by) being aggressive.”
The lessons Paxton has learned were apparent at the end of Tuesday’s game, when he was still able to reach 100 mph in the final at-bat.
“I know when he’s at his best. He can’t go through a game pitching at 91, 92. I can tell you right now, the adrenaline and what he was feeling out there, he unloaded the tank and he cut his stuff loose,” Stottlemyre said. “That was impressive. To do it the way that he did it last night, 99 pitches and then to be able to empty his tank and show 99 on the board was pretty incredible.”