Tigers shut out by Mariners, Norris struggles

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit —  Different night and an entirely different animal on the mound for the visiting team.

After scoring 19 runs and pounding out 24 hits Tuesday, the Tigers offense Wednesday night was shackled by an wicked bit of left-handed power pitching from Mariners' James Paxton.

It wasn’t a fair fight.

“He was good,” Victor Martinez said. “You have to give credit when a guy deserves credit. The guy was nasty.”

Boring 97-mph fastballs on the hands or painting them on the outside corner, floating the occasional 81 mph knuckle curveball and 89-mph cutter, Paxton cruised through seven innings, helping the Mariners to a series-evening, 8-0 win.

“We ran into a buzz saw tonight,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He was on his game, and he has been all year other than one start. He has real good stuff. He’s battled injuries and has had command issues in the past, but it looks like he’s put it all together this year.”

He struck out nine Tigers, all in the first five innings. Three of the first five to face him were called out on strikes.

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Of his 103 pitches, 71 were fastballs, with an average velocity of 96.3 mph. He topped out at 98. According to MLB’s Baseball Savant, Paxton got 10 swings and misses and 12 called strikes on the fastball. He also got five whiffs with his cutter.

The web site does not keep a count of broken bats — but there were several. Other than the four hits, only three other balls were hit to the outfield against him.

“He’s throwing 97-98 mph, so you have to cheat to catch up to that velocity,” Ausmus said. “Then he used his breaking balls, as well. Seattle has been waiting for him to blossom, and it looks like he has done that.”

The Tigers had two scoring opportunities. John Hicks, who caught Paxton when he was in the Mariners’ system, doubled, sending Martinez to third base in the second inning. Paxton struck out James McCann and got Dixon Machado on a broken bat ground out to end the threat.

They put two on in the fourth — a single by Justin Upton and Martinez who struck out and reached on a passed ball. But again, Paxton slammed the door — striking out Hicks and McCann.

“Paxton was the big issue for our team tonight,” Ausmus said.

It was another night of frustration for Tigers lefty Daniel Norris. Coming off a 4⅔-inning start in Tampa when he felt his stuff was better than the results, he didn’t seem to have either on Wednesday — stuff or results.

“It was a combination of a lot of things, I guess,” said Norris, who again was KO’d in the fifth inning, this time without recording an out. “There is a lot going on. I’ve got to figure it out.”

He was already at 104 pitches in the fifth and left with the bases loaded and trailing 3-0.

Only one of those runs scored, thanks to a solid clean-up job by Shane Greene.

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“He had trouble repeating his delivery and release point,” Ausmus said. “I’ve said before, with young pitchers, you’ll have games like this where the pitch count gets up and they have trouble throwing strikes, trouble repeating their delivery.”

Norris needed 29 pitches to get out of the first inning, though he did so unscathed, leaving the bases loaded.

But the Mariners scored three times in the second on an RBI single by Jean Segura and a two-run home run by Guillermo Heredia.

The Heredia homer was indicative of Norris’ issues. He got ahead in the count 1-2. But he nibbled and missed with the next two pitches and then hung a slider on 3-2. Even Heredia, who had just two career homers, couldn’t miss it.

“That was frustrating,” he said. “I’ve got to be able to put guys away, especially being ahead 1-2. That’s where I want to be, so I have to find a way to get the out.”

Norris was at 71 pitches after three innings. He had a shot to get through five innings, pitch-count wise, but he gave up a leadoff double to Robinson Cano, walked Nelson Cruz and gave up a bloop single to Taylor Motter, again after he had him in a 1-2 hole.

In his last two starts, Norris has thrown 205 pitches and not gotten through the fifth inning.

“It’s something I’m always working on,” Norris said, of being able to repeat his delivery. “It’s something I felt like I’d gotten past, for the most part. Obviously, there’s a lot more work to be done.”

The Mariners tacked on four more runs off reliever Anibal Sanchez, who ate up four innings and struck out five.

Cruz blasted a two-run home run in the sixth, and the torrid Segura doubled home a run in the seventh. Sanchez dropped a throw covering first base in the ninth, which allowed Danny Valencia to score from second with two outs.

Segura, who came off the disabled list Tuesday, posted three hits in each of the two games.

The home run by Cruz was the sixth allowed by Sanchez in 14⅔ innings. Ironically, it was four years ago to the day that he struck out 17 Braves hitters. Must seem like another lifetime to Sanchez.

Twitter @cmccosky