James Paxton wrapped up a perfect July.
The former University of Kentucky pitcher tossed six scoreless innings, becoming the first Mariners pitcher to win six games in a single month, and Nelson Cruz had a three-run homer to pace Seattle to a 9-1 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday.
“Paxton, what a month, wow. He really has led us charging up the mountain,” Servais said. “I thought he was just a tick off with his breaking pitches. But, the fastball was really good, got ahead in the count. He pounded the zone and got us where we needed to go.”
Cruz provided Paxton with an early cushion with his first-inning homer and Leonys Martin, recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A, homered in his first at-bat and saved a possible run with a diving catch in right field.
Paxton (11-3) scattered six hits, striking out eight and walking none, with two hit batters in a 108-pitch outing. The left-hander, sidelined most of May with a left forearm strain, was 6-0 in six July starts, allowing six earned runs in 39 1/3 innings for a 1.37 ERA with no home runs.
“This is a first for me,” Paxton said. “It’s a good feeling. Today wasn’t my best. My location wasn’t very good today and my breaking ball wasn’t its best. But I battled. We got through it pretty well.
“That’s what it’s all about, being able to pitch when you don’t have your best stuff. I’ve gotten better at that over this year. Not having my best stuff sometimes and just finding a way to get it done. And, you also get it done with defensive plays, guys making great plays behind you, and that helps out big time.”
Emilio Pagan retired all six batters he faced before James Pazos allowed a run in the ninth on three consecutive two-out singles.
Seth Lugo (5-3) allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings, striking out five and walking none.
Cruz put the Mariners up 3-0 with his 21st homer and first since July 17, giving him an AL-best 79 RBIs.
“He yanked a couple fastballs foul, he was early out front,” Lugo said. “I threw the changeup in the same spot, five or six miles per hour slower, figured I’d catch him out front. But he’s a good hitter and stayed back on it.”
The Mariners added two runs in the second. Martin, sent down after hitting .111 in 15 games to start the season, hit his first homer to right with one out.
Seattle scored a run in the sixth on Ben Gamel’s RBI single, and made it 7-0 in the seventh on Danny Valencia’s sacrifice fly.
The Mariners added two more in the eighth on a run-scoring throwing error by second baseman Neil Walker, and a pinch-hit RBI single by Danny Espinosa.
“When you look up and you’re down, you’ve got to battle back and get into the game,” Mets Manager Terry Collins said. “Seth gave us that opportunity. He shut them down for three innings and gave us the opportunity to come back.”
The Mets threatened in the second when Wilmer Flores singled with one out and Walker was hit by a pitch. Martin, the Mariners regular centerfielder in 2016, prevented a run with a diving grab of Curtis Granderson’s sinking liner to right.
“That’s going to be a run scored right there if he doesn’t make that play,” Paxton said. “Him making that catch was huge for this team.”