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Mariners go for split with Tigers

Young lefty James Paxton makes his third big league start on Thursday afternoon when the Seattle Mariners try for a split of a four-game series with the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

Just 24 years old, Paxton was a fourth-round pick of the Mariners in 2010 and reached the majors on Sept. 7, when he tossed six innings of two-run ball in a 6-2 defeat of Tampa Bay in Seattle.

He took his act on the road seven days later to St. Louis and was a 4-1 winner after holding the Cardinals to two hits in six scoreless innings of a 4-1 Mariners win.

The British Columbia native has walked three batters and struck out eight in his 12 innings of work.

Paxton was 24-20 in 70 minor-league outings while posting a 3.48 earned run average across 364 2/3 innings.

He's opposed by 29-year-old righty Doug Fister, who's dropped two straight decisions and four of six since beginning the season at 10-5.

Fister was 12-7 after defeating the Boston Red Sox with seven innings of scoreless four-hit ball on Sept. 2, but has since dropped a pair of decisions to Kansas City - one home and one away - while allowing 16 hits and six runs in 14 innings.

The Tigers are 6-4 in his last 10 starts, but haven't scored more than four runs with him on the mound since Aug. 23.

Fister won his lone career start against the Mariners after allowing four hits and two runs in seven innings on April 16 at Seattle.

On Wednesday, Hisashi Iwakuma outpitched Justin Verlander and the Mariners slugged their way past the Tigers, 8-0.

Iwakuma (13-6) scattered four hits and two walks while striking out six over eight scoreless innings. He lowered his ERA to 2.76, good for third in the AL.

Justin Smoak homered, drove in two runs and scored three times, Franklin Gutierrez hit a solo homer to highlight a three-hit night, and Michael Saunders went 2-for-4 with two RBI for the Mariners, who had lost eight of nine coming in.

Detroit, despite having its three-game win streak snapped, still holds a healthy six-game lead in the AL Central race.

Verlander (13-12) was touched for three runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings. The former Cy Young Award winner has won just once in his last eight outings.

The Tigers took two of three from the Mariners in Seattle back in April, but were swept in three games in the lone meeting between the clubs last year in Detroit.