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Paxton brings 'Eh' game as M's win 7th straight

Lefty strikes out 11 in eight scoreless innings on Canada Day
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- James Paxton brought his "Eh" game on his bobblehead day Sunday at Safeco Field and the Mariners brought their brooms, completing a three-game sweep of the Royals with a 1-0 victory that moved them within a half-game of first place in the American League West.

Pitching on Canada Day, while the Mariners passed out replicas of the British Columbia native with an eagle sitting on his shoulder (a callback to when Paxton became a perch in April), Paxton (8-2, 3.39 ERA) allowed just two hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings, racking up his seventh double-digit strikeout game of the season.

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SEATTLE -- James Paxton brought his "Eh" game on his bobblehead day Sunday at Safeco Field and the Mariners brought their brooms, completing a three-game sweep of the Royals with a 1-0 victory that moved them within a half-game of first place in the American League West.

Pitching on Canada Day, while the Mariners passed out replicas of the British Columbia native with an eagle sitting on his shoulder (a callback to when Paxton became a perch in April), Paxton (8-2, 3.39 ERA) allowed just two hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings, racking up his seventh double-digit strikeout game of the season.

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"He enjoys the moment," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I think today being everything, it should have been national Pax day. It's the holiday in Canada, it's the bobblehead, it's Pax. I thought our crowd today was awesome. A 1-0 game, Sunday afternoon, people were into it and we certainly felt the vibe in our dugout all day."

Video: KC@SEA: Servais on Paxton's outstanding outing in win

Paxton was feeling it as well, allowing only one runner past first base in his 110-pitch gem. The Royals' lone threat came in the second when Paxton gave up a Salvador Perez double and a walk to Jorge Bonifacio with no outs.

"It was really cool pitching on Canada Day," Paxton said. "The bobblehead also. I had lots of friends and family here today. It was a lot of fun. I felt good. I was out there letting it rip."

The big lefty has been a huge part of Seattle's surprising success as the Mariners have gone 35-17 since his no-hitter on May 8 in Toronto, the second-best mark in the Majors in that span, and just fractions of a percentage point behind the top record of Houston (33-16).

With the Astros losing a third straight game at Tampa Bay, Seattle pulled just one-half game back in the division race at 54-31 and secured its first series sweep of the Royals since 2014.

The Mariners have won seven straight for the first time since September 2016 and they went the cliffhanger route again, improving their MLB-leading record in one-run games to 26-11. It was Seattle's fifth 1-0 win of the season, just one shy of their single-season record of six in 2012.

Paxton needed to be on top of his game to outduel Royals rookie right-hander Brad Keller (2-3, 2.09), who allowed six hits and one run in going the distance. The Mariners bunched three of their hits off the 22-year-old in the second inning to push across their lone run on Ben Gamel's RBI single.

"Gam has been on a great run," Servais said. "You go back to where he was six weeks ago and where he's at now, he's been a big part of what we're doing."

Edwin Diaz replaced Paxton in the ninth and struck out the side for his MLB-leading 32nd save.

Video: KC@SEA: Diaz K's the side to earn the save

"You feel pretty good about that guy coming in with a one-run lead," Paxton said. "Honestly it feels like when he comes in, the game is over. He's been unbelievable all year."

And the combination of Paxton and Diaz turned out to be perfect once again. Which of those two would get the Cy Young Award vote at midseason if it were up to the Mariners?

"I'd cut it in half," said Gamel, "and give one to each."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
On a day when hits were hard to come by on both sides, it was a broken-bat single by Gamel that gave the Mariners their 1-0 lead in the second. Seattle strung together three straight singles off Keller, with Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy setting up Gamel's RBI blooper to center. It was no surprise seeing Gamel come through at Safeco Field, where he's hit .403 (29-for-72) this season compared to .216 (19-for-88) on the road.

Video: KC@SEA: Gamel bloops RBI single to center in the 2nd

"You love seeing bats die heroes," Gamel said of the broken-bat game winner.

SOUND SMART
Diaz became the second pitcher in MLB history to record at least 30 saves and 70 strikeouts before the All-Star Game, joining Eric Gagne of the Dodgers, who had 31 saves and 76 strikeouts at the break in his Cy Young season in 2003. The Mariners are now 40-0 in games where Diaz enters with a lead, and he's 20-for-22 in one-run save situations with a 0.81 ERA, 40 strikeouts and five walks in 22 1/3 innings.

Servais to cut hair like Diaz if closer gets 50 saves

Video: KC@SEA: Diaz hopes to share haircut with Servais

HE SAID IT
"It's intimidating when you throw 97-98 mph, you're [6-foot-4], you're from Canada, you've got the tattoo. Why not? Let it go. You can use that to your advantage and he certainly is." -- Servais, on Paxton's growing confidence and mound presence.

UP NEXT
After an off-day Monday, Wade LeBlanc (3-0, 3.38 ERA) opens a three-game series with the Angels on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. PT against lefty Andrew Heaney (4-5, 3.95). Seattle is 8-3 in games started by LeBlanc this year, including a 5-3 win against the Angels on June 11 at Safeco, in which he allowed two runs in five innings. That's the only time the 33-year-old has faced the Halos in his 10-year career.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, James Paxton