TORONTO - James Paxton looked up at the 20,000 Canadian fans cheering for him and pointed to the giant maple leaf tattoo on his right forearm.
The Big Maple picked the perfect place for the game of his life.
Paxton became the first Canadian to pitch a no-hitter in his home country, pitching the Seattle Mariners over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0 Tuesday night.
“You couldn’t write this stuff,” Paxton said. “Pretty amazing to have it happen against the Blue Jays, at home in Canada.”
Not bad, eh?
The 29-year-old lefty from British Columbia got a standing ovation at Rogers Centre. The crowd rooted for him in the late innings, realizing he was one of their own — his tattoo of Canada’s national symbol includes an image of a family home near Vancouver.
“The fans were great,” he said. “They were giving me some trouble in the seventh inning, but once I got past that, they started kind of cheering me on. It was cool.”
Paxton joined Dick Fowler of the 1945 Philadelphia Athletics as the only Canadians to throw a no-hitter.
Paxton threw the third no-hitter in the majors this year — all three have come in different countries.
Oakland’s Sean Manaea pitched one against Boston on April 21 in California. Four Los Angeles Dodgers combined to no-hit San Diego in Mexico last Friday.
Coming off a career-high 16 strikeouts in his last start, Paxton (2-1) was electric once again, hitting 100 mph (161 kph) with his fastball while retiring Josh Donaldson on a grounder to end it.
Paxton struck out seven, walked three, threw 99 pitches and benefited from an outstanding play by third baseman Kyle Seager. With two outs in the seventh, the former Gold Glover made a full-length diving stop on speedy Kevin Pillar’s grounder down the line, then slung an off-balance throw that first baseman Ryon Healy snagged on one hop.
“If that ball gets by you, it’s going to be hard to get any sleep tonight,” Seager said. “It may be hard anyway.”
Russell Martin led off the Toronto eighth with a long drive that left fielder Ben Gamel caught near the wall.
“What a defense tonight. That was amazing. Those guys were making every play,” Paxton said.
Anthony Alford fouled out on the first pitch to begin the ninth and Teoscar Hernandez struck out swinging. Donaldson ended it with a hard one-hopper to Seager.
Healy pumped his fist after catching Seager’s throw, and the Mariners streamed out of the dugout, dousing their pitcher with a cooler as the crowd of 20,513 cheered.
After his teammates had left the field, Paxton came back out and waved to the fans.
“Just showing my respect to the Canadian fans,” Paxton said. “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.”
Paxton said his tattoo also includes a mural of Bowyer Island, north of Vancouver, where his family owns a summer cabin.
“It’s kind of a special thing for me, having not lived in Canada for the past 10 years or so,” he said. “It just reminds me of home.”
Paxton was a first-round draft pick by Toronto in 2009 out of the University of Kentucky, but didn’t sign. He instead played in an independent league, was drafted by the Mariners in the fourth round the next year and joined them.
Seattle fans certainly appreciate him, too, especially the ones sitting in Maple Grove. Rather than K cards to mark his strikeouts, they hold up “Eh” signs in a playful nod to his heritage.
This outing was a lot better than his first game in Canada. He allowed nine runs, six walks and seven hits in 2⅔ innings in a September 2014 loss to the Blue Jays.
“We’ve come a long way from that,” he said.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said he started to think early about what could happen.
“Probably about the fourth inning I looked up and realized his pitch count was in such good shape that if he got a few breaks along the way we might be looking at something special,” Servais said. “It certainly was special tonight.”
Paxton’s season has taken off since a bald eagle mistakenly landed on his shoulder before a start last month. He’s 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA over seven starts since the bird stuck its talons into his back before the Minnesota Twins’ home opener.
Fowler threw his no-hitter on Sept. 9, 1945, against the St. Louis Browns. He had recently returned from serving in the Canadian military during World War II, missing two full seasons, and pitched his gem in his first start of the year.
This was the sixth no-hitter for the Mariners franchise, and the first since Hisashi Iwakuma did it against Baltimore in 2015. Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game in 2012, and Randy Johnson tossed Seattle’s first no-hitter in 1990.
It was the first no-hitter against the Blue Jays since Detroit’s Justin Verlander did it in Toronto on May 7, 2011. Toronto has been no-hit five times.
Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer as the Mariners improved to 12-6 on the road.
Marcus Stroman (0-5) remained winless in seven starts. The right-hander allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings, and has a 7.71 ERA.
Diamondbacks 8, Dodgers 5 (12)
In Los Angeles, David Descalso hit a tiebreaking, pinch-hit three-run homer in the 12th inning, and Arizona beat the Dodgers.
Yimi Garcia (0-1) served up the shot to right field with two outs after pinch hitter Alex Avila singled and Paul Goldschmidt walked.
Reliever Yoshihisa Hirano tossed a scoreless inning of relief for Arizona.
The Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda entered as a pinch hitter in the top of the 11th and laid down a sacrifice bunt for the home team.
Rockies 4, Angels 2
In Denver, Jon Gray continued the Rockies’ strong stretch of starts with seven scoreless innings, and Colorado won its sixth in a row.
Gray walked one and struck out eight to notch the Rockies’ ninth straight quality start, a franchise record. He shook off a 28-pitch first inning to hold the Angels’ potent lineup to four hits.
Shohei Ohtani appeared as a pinch hitter for Los Angeles and finished 0-for-1.
Yankees 3, Red Sox 2
In New York, Giancarlo Stanton homered twice, Aaron Judge hit a tiebreaking single off Yankees enemy Joe Kelly and New York edged Boston for its 16th victory in 17 games.
In the opener of a three-game showdown between baseball’s top two teams, Luis Severino struck out 11 during a pitching duel with Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz.
After their bench-clearing brawl at Fenway Park last month, touched off when Kelly drilled Tyler Austin with a pitch, a revved-up crowd of 45,773 showed up in the Bronx. There were no incidents this time.
Astros 4, Athletics 2
In Oakland, George Springer kept up his hitting surge with two hits and two RBIs as Houston beat Sean Manaea and the A’s.
A day earlier, Springer became the first Astros player to get six hits in a nine-inning game. Manaea (4-4) lost in his first start in Oakland since pitching a no-hitter against Boston.
Tigers 7, Rangers 4
In Arlington, Texas, Victor Martinez, Jeimer Candelario and Jose Iglesias homered for Detroit.
Adrian Beltre got three hits for the Rangers after missing 12 games with a strained hamstring. He is MLB’s active leader in hits with 3,078.
Royals 15, Orioles 7
In Baltimore, Dylan Bundy set a dubious modern-day record, yielding four homers and leaving without getting an out, part of a 10-run first inning that propelled Kansas City past the hapless Orioles.
Bundy (1-5) was lifted after allowing five hits and two walks to the only seven batters he faced. The Orioles have lost seven in a row and 19 of 22.
Braves 1, Rays 0
In St. Petersburg, Florida, Ronald Acuna Jr. became the youngest player to homer in a 1-0 game since 1935, lifting Atlanta over Tampa Bay.
The last player younger than the 20-year-old Acuna to go deep in a 1-0 game was the Chicago Cubs’ Phil Cavarretta against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 25, 1935, according to MLB.com. Cavarretta was 19 years old at the time.
Pirates 10, White Sox 6
In Chicago, Colin Moran hit a key two-run double, Jordy Mercer also had two RBIs and Pittsburgh cleaned up in interleague play once again.
Corey Dickerson had four hits. The Pirates have dropped five of seven, but they love to plunder the other league, specifically their counterparts in the AL Central. Pittsburgh improved to 7-2 in interleague play this year and 65-44 over the last six seasons, tops in the NL.
Twins 7, Cardinals 1
In St. Louis, Jake Odorizzi pitched five strong innings and Eduardo Escobar had a two-run homer as Minnesota won its season-high fifth straight game.
The win capped a two-game series sweep for the Twins, who have won 14 of their last 17 games against National League teams.
Brewers 3, Indians 2
In Milwaukee, reliever Brent Suter homered off AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and threw 4⅔ innings of two-run ball to lead the Brewers over Cleveland.
Suter connected on the first pitch by Kluber (5-2) in the third for the first homer of his professional career. It was the first home run given up by Kluber to a pitcher in his eight years with the Indians.
Nationals 4, Padres 0
In San Diego, Jeremy Hellickson was perfect until Travis Jankowski’s single leading off the seventh inning and led Washington to a win over the Padres.
Hellickson (1-0) struck out eight and kept San Diego off balance four nights after the Padres were no-hit by four Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers in Mexico.
Cubs 4, Marlins 3
In Chicago, Kris Bryant slid home safely with the go-ahead run on Victor Caratini’s grounder to the right side in the eighth inning as the Cubs beat Miami.
Carl Edwards Jr. (1-0) worked a scoreless eighth, and Brandon Morrow retired all three batters in the ninth for his eighth save in nine chances.
Reds 7, Mets 2
In Cincinnati, catcher Devin Mesoraco made the short walk between clubhouses shortly before the first pitch as New York dealt for him to get help at its neediest position, and he watched the Mets lose to Cincinnati.
Eugenio Suarez had a bases-loaded single and an RBI double off left-hander Jason Vargas (0-3). He added another RBI single in the seventh, and Scooter Gennett had a two-run homer off Hansel Robles.
Phillies 4, Giants 2
In Philadelphia, Aaron Nola struck out a career-high 12 in seven stellar innings and Odubel Herrera had two hits to extend his career-best on-base streak to 37 games.
Aaron Altherr, Carlos Santana and Jorge Alfaro hit solo home runs for the Phillies. Nola (5-1) allowed one run and five hits while walking none.