James Paxton Cy Young: Seattle Mariners Ace Shuts Down Colorado Rockies In Return From DL

James Paxton is back on a Cy Young track after the Seattle Mariners shut out the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night (May 31). Making his first start for the Mariners since coming off the disabled list, Paxton allowed only three hits over 5 1/3 innings of work. The Mariners had him on a pitch count, removing him partway through the top of the sixth inning.

In seven starts for the Mariners this season, Paxton has only allowed a run in two of them. He now boasts a 4-0 record, a 1.26 ERA, and a WHIP of only 0.93 so far. Those are extraordinary stats for Paxton, who is clearly now the ace of the Seattle Mariners. After posting six more strikeouts against the Rockies, Paxton has a total of 51 through 43 innings pitched. It’s a rate of around 11 strikeouts per nine innings, helping the Mariners keep opposing batters off the bases.

While it is still very early in the 2017 MLB season, James Paxton is clearly going to be in the conversation for the American League Cy Young Award. He will have to deal with the disadvantage of missing several weeks of action due to his stint on the disabled list, but if he can keep putting up performances like he had against the Rockies on Wednesday night, then it will be impossible for the voters to overlook him this year.

There are a few pitchers who are also putting up great stats to start the season and who are likely considered as the leaders in the race for the AL Cy Young. Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins has seven wins, a 1.75 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.844. Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros has eight wins, a 1.81 ERA, and 0.876 WHIP.

Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox is getting the most publicity so far, though, with 110 strikeouts and a 0.910 WHIP in a league-leading 78 innings. All four pitchers could easily remain in the race and meet up with each other on All-Star Weekend. If the Red Sox and Astros remain right in the middle of the playoff hunt, then Keuchel and Sale could already have a built-in advantage over Paxton.

For James Paxton to have a serious shot at winning the Cy Young Award, he is going to have to remain healthy for the rest of the season. That might be a big “ask” for the left-hander, as he hasn’t been able to do that since he made his debut for the Mariners. Last season was his high-water mark in parts of five seasons when Paxton was able to pitch 121 total innings. He had a 6-7 record, 3.79 ERA, and 1.306 WHIP over 20 starts.

As the Seattle Mariners try to get back in the race for a playoff spot, and that current four-game winning streak is a good way to do it, manager Scott Servais is going to be heavily leaning on “Big Maple” to put up good numbers every fifth day. The Mariners are finally starting to get healthy again and following Paxton off the disabled list should be outfielder Mitch Haniger and starting pitcher Felix Hernandez over the next few weeks.

While King Felix is still seen as the face of this Seattle Mariners roster, he may have to give up his seat as the ace of the pitching staff. James Paxton may have already supplanted him in that role and Hernandez might not even mind if the end result is the first chance to pitch in the postseason during his baseball career. The Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs since the 116-win 2001 season, so there is a lot of pressure for the team to get it done this year.

After winning the first three games of this series against the Colorado Rockies, the Seattle Mariners will try to take advantage of the momentum that James Paxton has provided to complete the sweep on Thursday afternoon (June 1).

[Featured Image by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]