James Paxton topped the 16-K feat in his last start with a no-hitter Tuesday in his home and native land against the Blue Jays. It was his first career complete game.
A no-hitter speaks for itself. Actually, it sings like Pavarotti. Mariners 3B Kyle Seager, however, spoke to the tastiest part of the moment.
“Sixteen strikeouts in one game and a no-hitter the next?” he said incredulously. “How does anybody do that?”
Especially on the road, in his home and native land. Against the third-highest scoring team in the American League. For the first complete game in his five year big-league career.
James Paxton did it, stringing together a tandem of magnificent games seldom seen in the hoary annals of ball. Especially in Seattle.
A starting Mariners pitcher. For you Seahawks fans, that’s the unit equivalent to the Seattle offensive line.
May 2 against Oakland at Safeco, he struck out 16 and gave up five hits and no runs on 105 pitches. Tuesday night in Toronto, he struck out six, gave up no hits and no runs on 99 pitches.
Two distinctively different ways to dominate one’s way into history. So long in coming.
Here’s one of the weirder features of the feat that illustrates the maddening wait for the the abrupt bloom: Paxton, 29, in his sixth year in the Mariners rotation, had just 31 career wins as he took the mound. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether No. 32 portends fulfillment of his long-forecasted robust future. But for a night it was as sweet as his nickname.
Especially for a Canadian (Ladner, B.C.) in Canada.
“To have it happen in Canada. What are the odds?” Big Maple told reporters. “It’s pretty amazing. Just very special. And against the Blue Jays? You couldn’t write this stuff.”
Timely too — his career arc was nearing a pinnacle of comedy, not baseball. In Minneapolis a few weeks ago, Paxton, during outfield warmups, was landed upon by a confused eagle that was part of a pre-game show gone haywire. Now, that eagle will be in demand as a pitching coach.
But any guy must be taken seriously who can throw 100 mph at the top of the strike zone and throw 85 mph curves into the dirt — plus a slider that seemed to go east to west and west to east — to get good hitters to chase clumsily.
“Paxton’s all about his timing and rhythm in his delivery,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, explaining some of what accounts for Paxton’s inconsistency. “When it clicks, he can go for awhile. About the fourth inning, I realized that his pitch count was in such good shape that if he got a few breaks, we might be looking at something special.
“It’s also something special for him he did it in Canada. He’s got the (maple leaf) tattoo, and the cheering section for himself at Safeco. For him to do it in Toronto is an awesome, awesome experience for him.”
And t0 grow stronger as the game sped along (two hours, 19 minutes) was also special. On the 98th of his 99 pitches, this to All-Star Josh Donaldson, Paxton topped the radar gun at 100 mph.
“After the first two outs in the eighth, you could see it building,” Servais said. “He had to let it eat — against probably their best hitter with two outs the ninth. He’ll never forget it.”
Paxton made that plain.
“I mean, Josh Donaldson, you know?” he said. “The guy is pretty good. So I was like, ‘I better bring my best stuff right here.’ I’m just going to rear back and throw it as hard as I can. Fastball is obviously my best pitch. They know, I know it.
“I’m just going to let it rip at the top of the zone and see what happens.”
On the final pitch, Donaldson hit it hard but within Seager’s reach to his left. Seager, who in the seventh saved the no-no with a dive to his right that had him on his belly, then on one knee for a one-hop throw for the out, snared the decider for a 5-3 putout that made for a great night out in the 206.
“It was a really cool thing to be out there,” Seager said. “Really cool.”
Now to see if “really cool” is the Canadian cold front the Mariners have so long sought.
The sixth no-hitter in club history was the fifth by an individual pitcher and first on the road, The first five:
Paxton is the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter, joining Dick Fowler for the St. Louis Browns in the second game of a doubleheader Sept. 9, 1945 at the Philadelphia Athletics . . . Paxton is the first AL pitcher to record a 16-strikeout game and a no-hitter in the same season since Nolan Ryan accomplished the feat for the Texas Rangers in the same game on May 1, 1991 vs. TOR . . . the Mariners have four no-hitters since 2012, tying the Giants for the most in MLB in that span and the first at Rogers Centre since Detroit’s Justin Verlander no-hit the Blue Jays May 7, 2011 . . . The 16 strikeouts against Oakland were a single-game record for a pitcher born in Canada. Previous mark was held by Erik Bedard, who struck out 15 on July 7, 2007 at Texas with Baltimore . . . MLB’s three no-hitters this season have been in three countries. May 8: Toronto; May 4: Monterrey, Mexico; April 21: Oakland.