Sunday was Canada Day.
And James “Big Maple” Paxton, the pride of Ladner, British Columbia, certainly delivered.
The left-hander pitched eight scoreless innings as the host Seattle Mariners defeated the Kansas City Royals 1-0 Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field, completing a sweep of the three-game series.
The Mariners, who also gave out “Big Maple” bobbleheads to fans, complete with an eagle on Paxton’s shoulder — in reference to an earlier start this season in Minnesota when a bird that was part of pregame festivities mistook Paxton for his handler and tried to land on him — won their season-high seventh consecutive game.
Right-hander Edwin Diaz struck out the side in the ninth inning for his major-league-leading 32nd save of the season. The Mariners are 39-0 this season when Diaz enters the game with a lead, including 21-0 when he’s summoned with a one-run lead.
Paxton (8-2) allowed only two hits — a leadoff double by Salvador Perez in the second inning and a one-out Whit Merrifield single in the third — and struck out 11. It was the seventh time in 18 starts this season that Paxton has posted a double-digit strikeout total.
Royals rookie right-hander Brad Keller (2-3), who got his first victory as a starter his last time out when he blanked the Los Angeles Angels for seven innings, nearly matched Paxton.
Keller allowed one run on six hits in an eight-inning complete game. He didn’t walk a batter, and he struck out three.
Keller ran into trouble in the second inning, when the Mariners scored the game’s lone run.
With one out, Kyle Seager lined a single to right field. Ryon Healy lined a single to center, sending Seager to second. Ben Gamel then singled on a soft line drive to center, scoring Seager from second.
After a visit to the mound, Keller got Mike Zunino to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The Royals’ lone threat came in the top of the second, as Perez doubled and Jorge Bonifacio walked. Paxton then struck out Hunter Dozier and Alex Gordon and got Alcides Escobar to fly out to center field.
—Field Level Media