BRENT STECKER

Watch: Mariners’ James Paxton strikes out 16 with ‘probably the best fastball’ he’s ever had

May 2, 2018, 11:40 PM | Updated: May 3, 2018, 1:51 am

James Paxton had the most strikeouts for a Mariners pitcher since Randy Johnson in 1997. (AP)...

James Paxton had the most strikeouts for a Mariners pitcher since Randy Johnson in 1997. (AP)

(AP)

There was a feeling from the outset of Wednesday’s game between the Mariners and Oakland A’s that James Paxton had something special brewing.

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Oakland leadoff man Marcus Semien was back in the dugout as a strikeout victim after he saw just three pitches. Same for No. 2 hitter Chad Pinder. And all eyes were on Paxton when he quickly went to 0-2 on Jed Lowrie, just one more strike away from an immaculate inning.

Paxton didn’t get that immaculate inning – in fact, Lowrie, one of the best hitters in baseball so far this season, worked the count a bit and eventually singled. But that didn’t stop Paxton from putting together one of the most dominant starts in Mariners history.

The Big Maple struck out 16 over seven scoreless innings, giving him a new career-high in strikeouts and the highest single-game total in the majors this year. Not only that, it was a whopping six more strikeouts than his previous career-high and the most Ks registered by a Mariner since Randy Johnson struck out 19 twice in 1997.

Paxton’s performance was largely due to an overpowering fastball that reached as high as 98 mph and was a struggle for Oakland hitters to catch up to.

“I had probably the best fastball I’ve ever had in my career today. It was jumping,” Paxton said.

Added catcher Mike Zunino: “We all know he has swing-and-miss stuff, and he showed that today. … His fastball command was so good. His fastball was dominant today.”

From the other side of the field, the reviews were a little more colorful.

“Paxton was just gross today,” A’s first baseman Mark Canha said. “I haven’t faced him in a couple years and just trying to hit that heater was tough. It was kind of like a sigh of relief in the dugout when he finally got out of there, because he was rolling.”

That move to the bullpen was the turning point of the game, too – unfortunately for the Mariners. Oakland tied the game on a two-run Lowrie homer off of Juan Nicasio in the eighth inning, and Canha followed up in the top of the ninth with a solo shot off of Mariners closer Edwin Diaz (just the third hit given up all year by April’s American League Reliever of the Month) to provide the decisive run in the 3-2 Seattle loss.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to get him the ‘W,’ but really from the get-go that’s as lively a fastball as I think I’ve ever seen Paxton have,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Definitely a great outing by him. He had all the pitches working but it was the fastball that was just so dominant tonight. Got ahead in the count early down in the zone, elevated late – the punchouts just started racking up.

“It was fun to watch.”

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Watch: Mariners’ James Paxton strikes out 16 with ‘probably the best fastball’ he’s ever had