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Paxton racks up 11 K's as Mariners edge Twins

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- James Paxton continued his masterful May for the Mariners on Friday, firing seven innings of one-run ball as Seattle topped the Twins, 2-1, in the series opener at Safeco Field.

The big lefty held Minnesota to three hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks in a 103-pitch gem, putting his season record at 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA. In five starts this month, Paxton went 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 46 strikeouts and five walks in 38 innings, while throwing a no-hitter and the first two complete games of his career.

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SEATTLE -- James Paxton continued his masterful May for the Mariners on Friday, firing seven innings of one-run ball as Seattle topped the Twins, 2-1, in the series opener at Safeco Field.

The big lefty held Minnesota to three hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks in a 103-pitch gem, putting his season record at 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA. In five starts this month, Paxton went 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 46 strikeouts and five walks in 38 innings, while throwing a no-hitter and the first two complete games of his career.

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"What can you say?" said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "James Paxton is on a roll, just a dominating performance again tonight."

Video: MIN@SEA: Servais discusses Paxton's 11-K night

Twins rookie Fernando Romero was stingy as well, but gave up a pair of runs and five hits over seven innings. Run-scoring singles by Nelson Cruz in the first and Mitch Haniger in the sixth provided the run support for Paxton, who only was touched by a solo homer by Max Kepler leading off the fifth.

"I could see he was getting outs quick because I was getting back on the field pretty fast," Paxton said of Romero, a 23-year-old making just his fifth Major League start. "And the zeros were going up, so I knew it was going to be a low-run game and our boys did a great job getting those two runs for us."

Video: MIN@SEA: Haniger drives in Heredia with a single

The Twins have now seen Paxton twice this year -- a no-decision early in the season in the game best remembered for when an eagle landed on the Mariners' stoic southpaw during the pregame introductions and now the 29-year-old at his best.

They're glad they won't face Paxton again this season.

"It's pretty much what he's been doing all year, striking out the house," said Twins catcher Mitch Garver. "He's throwing the ball hard, mixing speeds, in and out. He kept us off balance. He's throwing the rise fastball up in the top of the zone, which is pretty tough to hit. It looks so appealing, you want to swing at it. But it's very hard to get your barrel on."

The Mariners have won eight of their last 11 games and their 30-20 record is the best 50-game start for the club since it opened 2003 at 32-18. Pitching has fueled the recent surge as the rotation has posted a 2.15 ERA over the past 11 games and the bullpen hasn't allowed a run over the last seven games.

Nick Vincent pitched a scoreless eighth and Edwin Diaz notched his 18th save, tied with the Rockies' Wade Davis for the most in the Majors.

Video: SEA@MIN: Diaz retires Escobar to record his 18th save

The Mariners have played five straight one-run games and are 4-1 in those contests despite totaling just 12 runs.

"We're finding a way to scratch one or two runs every day, I guess," said Cruz. "With the pitching we've had every day, it feels like it's enough. It's remarkable the way they've been pitching, starters and bullpen."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Hits have been hard to come by recently for Cruz, who has been dealing with a bruised foot and elbow. But the big designated hitter got Seattle started early with his run-scoring single in the first to score Jean Segura, who had led off with an infield single and stole second. Cruz topped the American League with 119 RBIs last season, but had gone seven games without driving in a run and was just 2-for-22 in that span. He's now batting .225 with 19 RBIs on the year.

"He does need a few of those to drop in," said Servais. "Nelly will get going again. He's had too big a track record here. People know what he can do in the league, especially when he gets hot. But it starts off with little things. It doesn't start with a two- or three-homer night. It's a base hit here, it's taking a ball the other way. Nelly has hit a lot of balls hard, just in the ground lately. He hasn't been able to get the ball in the air much. Hopefully this gets him started a little. We need a big homestand from him, no doubt."

Video: MIN@SEA: Cruz opens the scoring with an RBI single

SOUND SMART
The Mariners are 14-8 on the season in one-run games, with the 14 wins the most in the Majors. As for the Twins? They're now 3-9 in one-run decisions.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Mariners missed out on another scoring opportunity in the fifth when Ryon Healy and Ben Gamel led off with singles off Romero, but Healy was thrown out trying to go from first to third on a perfect strike by Kepler from right field.

"I thought he made the right read," Servais said of Healy. "Max Kepler is probably the only right fielder in the league that throws him out. Off the bat I thought it was a no-brainer. I thought he'd make it. You never want to make the first out at third base. That's a cardinal rule in baseball. He did, but I thought it was the right read. Kepler has a very strong and accurate arm, he made a great play."

Video: SEA@MIN: Kepler throws out Healy from right field

HE SAID IT
"I think I got a little upset there, so I started letting it rip a little more." -- Paxton, after surrendering his lone run on the homer by Kepler

UP NEXT
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (0-2, 2.65 ERA) gets the start in Saturday's 7:10 p.m. PT game against Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.17). LeBlanc has allowed just three runs in 20 ⅓ innings in four starts -- including six scoreless innings on three hits at Minnesota on May 14 -- since stepping in for the injured Erasmo Ramirez.

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

Seattle Mariners, James Paxton