Mariners left-hander James Paxton says he's always nervous before he pitches, but even he admits there were a few extra jitters before his last start, when he gave up two runs over 4 1/3 innings in Seattle's 6-3 win in Baltimore.
It was his first meaningful appearance on a big league mound since he was forced to leave an April 8 game against the Angels with a left lat strain.
"That sharpness wasn't there yet, but I can't expect to have that quite yet," Paxton said. "It's just one of those things I'm going to have to build on every start."
It wasn't all bad, though. Paxton had five strikeouts, a fastball in the upper 90s and he got stronger as he went along. On Friday, manager Lloyd McClendon predicted that the rookie would be better when he faces the White Sox at Safeco Field on Saturday.
"Once he got going in Baltimore, he was pretty good," McClendon said. "It took a couple innings to get there, but he finally settled down."
Paxton is 2-0 with a 2.76 ERA this season, and he hasn't lost in seven career starts. He won't be limited by a pitch count or number of innings when the 61-54 Mariners go for their fifth win in a row.
"We can't get silly. He's built to go," McClendon said. "It will all depend on how stressful his innings are. There's no reason he shouldn't be able to go out and go 110-115 pitches. I don't want it in five innings, though. Hopefully it's over nine."
Opposing Paxton is Hector Noesi, a 27-year-old right-hander familiar to Mariners fans and players. Noesi spent a little more than two seasons with the organization -- 2012-14 -- and struggled to a 2-14 record and a 6.13 ERA (19 starts, 36 games). In '14, he made two appearances with Seattle before the club designated him for assignment in April. He was then traded to the Rangers.
After just three appearances with the Rangers, Noesi was DFA'd again, then claimed off waivers by the White Sox.
He's bucked that trend and been a serviceable starter in Chicago, going 6-7 with a 4.43 ERA. On July 6, he pitched a gem against the Mariners, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings of a 1-0 White Sox win at U.S. Cellular Field.
Mariners: Zunino still hitting homers
Say this about Mike Zunino: He makes the most of his hits.
This season, the Mariners' second-year catcher has 33 singles and 35 extra-base hits. He continued that trend in Friday night's 4-1 win when he hit a opposite-field three-run homer, his 18th homer of the season.
Zunino and Cincinnati's Devin Mesoraco are currently tied for the Major League lead for home runs among catchers. Zunino is just one away from tying Miguel Olivo for the most home runs by a Mariners catcher in a single season. Olivo hit 19 jacks with Seattle in 2011.
White Sox: Eaton hobbled again
White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton had to leave Friday's game after just a half-inning because of soreness in his rib cage.
He grounded out in his first at-bat, then was replaced by Leury Garcia, who went 1-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts. Eaton will be reevaluated on Saturday.
The leadoff hitter was forced to leave Wednesday's game against the Rangers after he crashed into the fence and bruised his lower back, which caused him to sit out Thursday's series opener.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the back and rib injuries are unrelated.
Eaton has a .304 batting average and a .370 on-base percentage this season.
"He looked fine in batting practice," added Ventura. "You could tell after he hit the ball that something was up. … I think we're a different team when he's in there, especially with the run he's been having."
• Dating back to July 10 -- a stretch of 24 games -- Mariners starters have allowed two runs or fewer 19 times. During that stretch, those starters are 9-8 with a 2.56 ERA.
• The White Sox have lost four in a row and six of their last seven games. The losing streak is their longest since they dropped five straight from June 19-23.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.