Mariners’ James Paxton exits start vs. Angels in seventh inning with left pectoral strain

The Mariners’ last remaining front-end starter left Thursday night’s game after grimacing and pointing to his chest.

On his 107th pitch, Mariners starter James Paxton let go of the ball and grimaced. That caught the attention of catcher Mike Zunino, who called for the trainers, who looked at Paxton, who pointed to his chest before leaving the game.

That, without any question, is the most important story to emerge from Thursday’s game against the Angels. The Mariners announced that Paxton had left with a left pectoral strain. More updates will be provided after the game.

Paxton is not only the Mariners’ ace, a pitcher receiving consideration as a Cy Young candidate. He is the one reliable starter in the Mariners’ decimated rotation.

Against Kole Calhoun in the seventh inning, Paxton rolled his shoulders and grimaced after throwing his 107th pitch on the night. It was enough to catch the eye of Zunino, who motioned for trainers.

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A crowd gathered around Paxton on the mound, and it looked as if he pointed to his chest as he talked to the team’s medical staff. Whatever the case, Paxton quickly exited the game, another potential blow for an already thin rotation.

Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly are out with injuries. Ariel Miranda is struggling. Yovani Gallardo is back in the rotation after already being demoted.

Not only that but Paxton had just strung together his most dominant stretch of the season if not his career. In six starts in July, Paxton allowed just six runs in 39 1/3 innings (1.37 ERA). Opponents hit just .182 against him, and he had 46 strikeouts.

In his last seven starts, Paxton’s ERA was 1.59, and his own fan section had even formed in the left-field bleachers named, appropriately for the Canadian Paxton, The Maple Grove. Fans chanted “eh, eh, eh” anytime Paxton had two strikes.

It was clearly early on Thursday that Paxton wasn’t that sharp. He allowed a solo home run to C.J. Cron to start the second inning. He also allowed a mammoth two-run home run to Andrelton Simmons in the fourth inning, although in between Paxton struck out the side in the third inning.

Paxton hadn’t allowed a home run since the end of June, and it was the first time all season that Paxton had allowed multiple home runs in game.

One of the marks of an ace, however, is…

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