Rookie left-hander James Paxton makes his third Major League start, and again faces a tough foe in the Tigers. Paxton is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA, having allowed just one earned run and six hits in 12 innings against the Rays and Cardinals.
The 24-year-old shut out the Cardinals for six innings on two hits with five strikeouts in his last outing at Busch Stadium. But he'll face another test against Detroit, a team that is fighting for the postseason while boasting one of the most potent lineups in baseball.
"He's pitching in a very mature fashion for someone who has only had a couple starts," manager Eric Wedge said of Paxton. "He's pitching with a great deal of confidence and seems to be calm out there. The ball is jumping out of his hand. It's only been a couple outings, but there have been some good things to see out there. He's pitched against a couple good ballclubs."
The Tigers' fearsome bats will look to make up for Detroit's 8-0 loss on Wednesday in the third game of the series. Though the club retains a six-game lead in the American League Central, it has turned into one of the toughest divisions in baseball with three teams well above .500.
Former Mariners starter Doug Fister will take the hill for the Tigers. He played 2 1/2 seasons with the Mariners before he was traded for outfielder Casper Wells, left-hander Charlie Furbush and prospects Francisco Martinez and Chance Ruffin.
Fister was dominant in his last start, allowing one run on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings in a loss. He has a 1.29 ERA in two starts against his former team.
"After the first inning, Fister was terrific because he made an adjustment," manager Jim Leyland said. "He started mixing in other pitches, because you could see that their game plan was to charge first-pitch. He was trying to get ahead and they were looking to whack that first one, which they did in the first inning a little bit. After that, he made a great adjustment and pitched a terrific game."
Paxton went 8-11 with a 4.45 ERA in 28 starts in Triple-A Tacoma before his September promotion, but seems to be pitching his best ball late in the year, and now in the Majors.
He pitched in front of 41,000 fans at Busch Stadium and figures to see another big house at Comerica Park, but Paxton said he just zeroed in on the job at hand against the Cardinals.
"I was really just locked in on the catcher," Paxton said. "I didn't hear the crowd much or notice how many people were there until they took me out of the game. I said to somebody, 'Wow, it's loud. There's a lot of people here, huh?' But I just stayed locked in and focused on what was going on."
It appears that Leyland is giving the lefty a lot of respect, as the Tigers made a number of moves with an eye toward lining up right-handed hitters against Paxton. Torii Hunter had the day off on Wednesday, and former Mariners outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo is slated to make his third start in four days.
Mariners: Wedge says bad comes with good for rookies
Rookies such as Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Taijuan Walker, and Paxton have been valuable contributors for the Mariners this year, and they have shown that they can be integral members of the team for years to come.
"You don't ever really know until a guy gets up here and pitches," Wedge said of Paxton. "That's been very impressive, the heartbeat he's had out there."
Still, the Mariners' young crop of talent has not been free of the mistakes that plague most rookies, and there have been some key defensive lapses lately by the youngsters. Still, Wedge says that errors come with the territory when dealing with younger players, and that the struggles are understandable.
"We have 20-some players here that have less than three years coming into this year," Wedge said. "That's a big number. So you have to be patient and work through it. It's a rebuild. That's what it was when I got here, and you have to continue to work these guys in."
Tigers: Martinez starts behind plate to prepare for postseason
Victor Martinez will start at catcher for just the third time this season in the Tigers' second game against the Mariners. The move allows Detroit to move Miguel Cabrera from third base to designated hitter.
One reason for the switch may be to give Cabrera a break during a day game played immediately after a night game on Tuesday. Switch-hitting Ramon Santiago will start at third base in Cabrera's place.
• The Tigers have struggled against Seattle, winning just seven of their last 19 games against the Mariners.
• In the first seven games of Seattle's 10-game road trip, the Mariners face the No. 3 and No. 4 pitching staffs in the Majors. The seven starters the Mariners faced -- and will face -- entered their respective games against Seattle with a combined 83-53 record and a 3.38 ERA.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.