BEST OF

Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: James Paxton carries Mariners rotation in 2 stellar months

Dec 13, 2017, 7:00 AM | Updated: 10:59 am
James Paxton started the season with big outings against the eventual champion Astros. (AP)...
James Paxton started the season with big outings against the eventual champion Astros. (AP)
(AP)

The 12 hosts of 710 ESPN Seattle have voted on the top Seattle sports stories of 2017. Each day we will count down to the top story of the year with an article by a different host. Today, Tom Wassell of Bob, Groz and Tom kicks off the countdown by covering the 12th biggest story of the year, Mariners pitcher James Paxton’s masterful months of April and July.

This was supposed to be the breakout year for James Paxton. And it was – kinda. Late in the season, we were talking about him as a legitimate candidate for the American League Cy Young Award. What was the reason for that? April and July.

Photo gallery: Paxton puts together huge months of April and July

Things couldn’t have started better for the 6-foot-4 lefty. In his season debut, he went six innings and allowed just two hits and no runs on the road against the eventual world champion Astros. He held them scoreless again in his next start and finished the month 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, putting together 23 straight scoreless innings along the way, the most ever to start a season in club history. Even though the team was 9-13 and sat in last place at this point, there was hope that the Mariners finally had not only had a pitcher that could provide some stability in the rotation, but one that could dominate in the same way Felix Hernandez had for so many years.

“If only one or two of the other pitchers in the rotation could just hold their own, the M’s would be a contender.” I must have said that on the air two-dozen times this year.

It was not to be, as Paxton went down with a forearm injury in early May, but that’s not where the story ended. He returned on May 31 and struggled through June before things completely turned around. His July was one of the best a Mariner pitcher has ever had as he became the first in franchise history to win six games in one month. Paxton went 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA, striking out 46 hitters and walking only six. He was named American League Pitcher of the Month for his accomplishment, and after nabbing another win to begin August, the Mariners sat at 56-55, just 1.5 games behind Kansas City for the second wild card spot.

A week later he was back on the DL with a strained pectoral muscle, and although the M’s hung in the race for another couple of weeks, a postseason berth seemed unlikely without their ace.

So what did we learn about James Paxton in 2017? When he’s healthy, he’s dominant and among the most exciting starters to watch in all of baseball. Every team covets that kind of talent, but when his physical well-being is a constant concern, it’s going to be tough for us fans to be comfortable with him alone at the top of the rotation.

A closer look at James Paxton’s two big months

Player of the Week James Paxton unaware award existed

Drayer: Paxton helping M’s in more ways than one

Stecker: Paxton the best pitcher in baseball (so far)

Paxton wins AL Player of the Week again

Paxton takes AL Pitcher of the Month award for July

Date Starting Pitcher
Sunday, August 7 @ 1:10 pm

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
Sunny
High 85° | Low 61°
Roof is open
Yankees at Mariners today at 7:10pm

Best Of

This rendering shows OVG's proposed remodeled KeyArena. (Oak View Group/via AP)...
Mike Salk

Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: NHL moves toward expansion in Seattle

Mike Salk of Brock and Salk looks at the top Seattle sports story of 2017: The NHL's formal movement towards an expansion team in Seattle following an agreement to renovate KeyArena.
5 years ago
Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles in the Seahawks' Week 10 game in Arizona. (AP)...
Gee Scott

Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: Seahawks’ defense takes a big hit with injuries to Sherman, Chancellor, Avril

Gee Scott of 710 ESPN Seattle looks at the No. 2 Seattle sports story of 2017: The Seahawks suffering injuries to several of their biggest stars on defense, including Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Cliff Avril.
5 years ago
Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls set a franchise playoff record for rushing yards against Detroit. (AP)...
Bob Stelton

Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: Seahawks hammer Lions in playoffs but season ends in Atlanta

Bob Stelton of Bob, Groz and Tom looks at the No. 3 Seattle sports story of 2017: The Seahawks' playoff run that included an impressive 26-6 win over the Lions but also a 36-20 loss to the Falcons.
5 years ago
Russell Wilson's play in 2017 has put him among the top MVP candidates in the NFL. (AP)...
Dave Wyman

Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner jump into MVP races

Dave Wyman covers the No. 4 story in Seattle sports in 2017: Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner putting themselves in the MVP conversations with their play for the Seahawks.
5 years ago
Felix Hernandez was one of the more significant Mariners to hit the DL in 2017. (AP)...
Shannon Drayer

Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: Plague of injuries holds back Mariners

Shannon Drayer covers 710 ESPN Seattle's No. 5 sports story of the year: The Mariners' rash of injuries that resulted in them using a record-tying number of pitchers and kept them out of the playoffs.
5 years ago
Myles Gaskin led the Huskies offense in UW's Apple Cup victory over then-No. 13 WSU. (AP)...
Brock Huard

Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: Apple Cup win helps UW Huskies get Fiesta Bowl bid

Brock Huard of Brock and Salk looks at the No. 6 Seattle sports story of 2017: The Washington Huskies earning a Fiesta Bowl thanks in part to a convincing win over then-No. 13 WSU in the Apple Cup.
5 years ago
Top Seattle sports stories of 2017: James Paxton carries Mariners rotation in 2 stellar months