In the hours leading up to the Seattle starter's first pitch, there were rumors that indicated Washburn was about to be traded to the Yankees, leading many to question if he would even take the mound for the afternoon affair at Rogers Centre.
When the game finally started, the speculation proved false as Washburn was on the hill for the Mariners. Unaffected by the rumors, the left-hander turned in a dominating performance as Seattle defeated Toronto, 5-1. The win halted the Mariners' losing streak at seven games.
While the Seattle (39-65) starter was able to focus solely on taming the Toronto hitters during Sunday's outing, he did admit that leading up to the game, it was a different story.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind before the game and leading up," Washburn said. "With the last few days, with all the rumors that are out there, all the questions [the media is] asking me. I don't know if anything is going to happen, but it's been on my mind.
"But it was nice to go out there and be able to forget about it for a while."
Washburn (5-9) stifled the Jays over the course of his eight innings. He allowed just one run on four hits, walking two and striking out two. What was more impressive, though, was that he grew even stronger as the outing continued, retiring the last nine batters he faced.
The southpaw's only mistake of the game was his first pitch to Toronto's No. 9 hitter John McDonald in the fifth inning. The Jays (53-52) shortstop deposited the offering over the left-field wall for his first home run of the season and first since May of 2007.
Seattle manager Jim Riggleman was not surprised at the way his veteran pitcher handled the rampant trade rumors.
"It's really unfortunate [that] stuff like that gets started when it's unfounded, because it could be a distraction," Riggleman said. "Obviously it wasn't for Wash -- he's a veteran. A pro."
Riggleman also marvelled at Washburn's recent string of consistent efforts.
"He's been very effective against some good ballclubs," said the manager. "[The Jays have] really been swinging the bat good this series, and Wash did a good job against them."
Over his last nine starts, Washburn has gone 3-2 with a 2.44 ERA. During that span, only once has he allowed more than two earned runs in a game.
"I figured some things out," Washburn said of his recent stretch. "Mechanically, I'm very sound right now. Being consistent every pitch. That's allowed me to do better with my offspeed pitches. My changeup right now is the best I've ever had, and the breaking ball is consistent."
Washburn also said that with increased confidence in his offspeed stuff, he has been able to display a more complete repertoire of pitches.
"I have more confidence right now in all my offspeed pitches than I've ever had, which allows me to mix it up more than in the past. I'm hitting the spots with the fastballs and with the offspeed -- it's just a good recipe right now.
"I feel matured a little bit as a pitcher," he added. "I think I've taken a step forward in my career."
With the way Washburn was pitching on Sunday, the Seattle offense did not need to provide much support in the form of runs. Jose Vidro opened the scoring for the Mariners in the sixth inning, when he lined a 1-0 pitch from Jays starter Shaun Marcum (5-5) over the right-field wall for a two-run home run that gave Seattle a 2-1 lead. Kenji Johjima added to that tally in the same inning with a double to right-center field that scored two more runs.
Vidro's home run was significant in that it snapped an 0-for-10 streak at the plate.
"I got a pretty good pitch to hit," Vidro said. "Really, when you're struggling ... you try to shorten your swing a little more. I think that worked out pretty good for me today."
Like Washburn, Vidro has also been mentioned in various rumors as the July 31 Trade Deadline draws closer.
"It's not the first time it happened," Vidro said of the rumors. "Pretty much all we have to do is just play the game and wait. If something happens, then it happens. Until that, I'm wearing a Mariners uniform."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less