SEATTLE -- James Paxton isn't done staking his claim to a rotation spot for the start of next season.
On a day the Mariners announced that top mound prospect Danny Hultzen has potentially serious shoulder damage, Paxton fanned 10 hitters in dealing a major blow to the Kansas City Royals' playoff hopes. Paxton blanked the Royals on four hits over seven innings Tuesday night in a 4-0 win that leaves Kansas City just a game away from elimination.
Paxton became the first Mariners rookie to record double-digit strikeouts since Hisashi Iwakuma set the rookie team record with 13 against Toronto last season. A crowd of 12,528 saw the Mariners open the scoring in the first inning on a single to left field by Kendrys Morales.
Justin Smoak then took Chen deep to left in the fifth inning for a three-run homer that gave Paxton all the offensive support he'd need. It was Smoak's second home run in three days batting right-handed and only his second all year from that side compared to 17 batting left-handed.
The Mariners won for only the fourth time in 16 games to improve to 69-89.
Paxton improved to 3-0 and lowered his earned-run average from 2.12to 1.50 in his fourth big-league outing. The Mariners haven't cherry-picked starts for Paxton, sending him out against formidable lineups like the Royals, Tigers and Cardinals his last three times out.
The emergence of the left-hander as a potential starter for next season has been a rare positive for the Mariners this month.
He breezed through the seven frames on 97 pitches, with the team conserving his arm. He's scheduled to make one last start the final day of the season.
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