Posted on May 9, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s practically raining no-hitters in baseball right now. Less than a week after a shared no-hitter by the Dodgers, Seattle Mariners lefty James Paxton no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night. The Mariners won the game 5-0. To make the moment all the sweeter, Paxton is a native of Canada and threw the no-hitter in his home country. It was also just the second no-hitter by a Candian pitcher in big league history and the first since Dick Fowler in 1945.
“To have it happen in Canada. What are the odds?” Paxton said of the occasion. “It’s pretty amazing. Just very special. And against the Blue Jays? You couldn’t write this stuff.”
Early in the game, you could hardly tell that Paxton was on his way toward making history. He struggled with his command during the first few innings, walking three in the first four innings. However, he eventually settled into the game and looked dominant during the late innings, ultimately striking out seven Blue Jays.
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When it came time to record the final out of the no-hitter, Paxton knew exactly what was at stake while facing Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson. After his fastball sat in the 92 to 95 mph range for much of the game, Paxton cranked it up to triple digits on his final two pitches to Donaldson, who hit a sharp ground ball that was handled by Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager.
“The guy is pretty good,” Paxton said of facing Donaldson for the final out. “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. He smoked that ball to third base and Seager made an amazing play. That was happening all night long.”
Paxton’s no-hitter was the sixth in Mariners history, with Hisashi Iwakuma throwing the last one in 2015. But it was the first to take place on the road. However, for a Canadian like Paxton, it felt like a home game. Blue Jays fans got behind the British Columbia native when they realized he was on the verge of history. When the initial celebration subsided, Paxton returned to the field to wave to the away fans who cheered his accomplishment.
“Just showing my respect to the Canadian fans,” explained Paxton. “I really appreciate their cheers after the game, supporting me being Canadian. That was very special. I just wanted to show them that I heard them and that I was very grateful for their support.”
For Paxton, the no-hitter all but confirms his status as Seattle’s ace. He had a breakout season in 2017, going 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA despite multiple stints on the DL. Outside of a couple rough outings, he’s been even better this season. Paxton has allowed just two runs in his last 22 innings, striking out 33 batters in that span. He’s been Seattle’s most consistent starter and a catalyst for the Mariners staying close to the Astros and Angels in the AL West. Tuesday’s no-hitter serves merely as confirmation that he’s the ace of the staff and on his way to becoming one of the best starters in baseball.