Here you go, James Paxton.
This was the guy Thursday afternoon that the Mariners hope to see this year and beyond. He gave up one run over three innings in an 8-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park.
"I’m not lost like I was last spring training," Paxton said, "which is a good feeling. Just having an idea and knowing what I need to do is a good feeling."
The Mariners built a 4-1 lead, frittered it away in the later innings, before staging a four-run rally in the ninth. Boog Powell, Zack Shank and Nevin Ashley contributed RBI single.
Chicago scored once and got the winning run to the plate later in the inning before Christian Bergman closed out the victory. The Mariners improved to 8-5.
"Paxton was really the story of the day for me," manager Scott Servais said. "I know we swung the bats very well, but Paxton was on top of his game against their A lineup.
"It was great to see him using all of his pitches and working both sides of the plate. Very encouraging."
The Cubs (4-6-3) opened the scoring when Anthony Rizzo launched a two-out homer in the first inning against Paxton, but that was the only flaw against the big lefty who retired every other batter.
"I just fell behind," Paxton said. "The pitch in that count was the curveball. That was the pitch I needed to make. I fell behind to him and threw him a fastball. He’s expecting a fastball, and he’s a good hitter."
Mike Zunino tied the game with a leadoff homer in the second inning against ex-Mariner Mike Montgomery.
Danny Valencia’s two-out RBI single in the third against Brett Anderson, which followed a Mitch Haniger double, gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. But the Cubs trapped Valencia between first and second for the final out.
The Mariners boosts their lead to 4-1 by scoring single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Tyler Smith had an RBI single in the fourth, and Zunino got an RBI double on a sun ball to left that eluded Kyle Schwarber.
Chicago struck back with two runs on three two-out hits in their fifth against Jonathan Aro and tied the game after a throwing error by minor-league second baseman Adam Law in the seventh inning.
Law’s off-line throw in the eighth prevented an inning-ending double play, and Jacob Hannemann then delivered a two-out RBI single that gave the Cubs a 5-4 lead.
Ben Gamel opened the four-run ninth with a double. It was the first of the Mariners’ five hits.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Valencia getting trapped for the third out between first and second in the third inning, when the runner was clearly going to score, is the baserunning mistake that cheeses off Servais more than any other.
PLUS: Haniger went 2-for-4 and is batting .400 at 10-for-25…Zunino had a homer and a double in three at-bats…reliever Evan Scribner worked a one-two-three fourth inning after replacing Paxton…Valencia went 2-for-3 after entering the day at 3-for-21…Powell had an RBI single in his only at-bat and is batting .600 at 9-for-15.
MINUS: Leonys Martin was hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts…Guillermo Heredia drew a walk in four plate appearances, but his official 0-for-3 came after entering the day at 10-for-20…Law had a rough defensive day in his three innings.
STAT PACK: Paxton struck out five of the 10 batters he faced…the sellout crowd of 15,107 at Sloan Park was, by far, the biggest this spring to watch the Mariners. Their previous high was 11,148 on March 4 in a 4-3 victory over Colorado at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
SPRING BATTLES: Utilityman Taylor Motter started at third base and, after a rough defensive game Wednesday at shortstop, turned in a web-gem play for the first out in the sixth inning by spearing Kris Bryant’s wicked grounder. Motter also had two singles and a walk in three plate appearances.
QUOTABLE: Servais on Scribner, who retired three straight batters in the fourth: "Evan is taken for granted. He’s just about automatic. He goes right after them."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners stole three bases in their four-run ninth and forced a throwing error that produce one of their runs…the Mariners were 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position…the Mariners issued two walks, which gives them just 28 in 113 innings — or 2.2 per nine innings.
UP NEXT: The Mariners and Cubs play again at 12:10 p.m. Friday at Peoria Stadium. Right-hander Chris Heston is scheduled to start against Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
Heston is slotted for three innings. Also scheduled to pitch: Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski, Dan Altavilla, Christian Bergman and Thyago Vieira.
The game will be carried by Root Sports Northwest with a live radio broadcast on mariners.com. Radio coverage on 710 ESPN will be delayed until 7 p.m.
DAYS LEFT UNTIL OPENING DAY: 24
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners