KANSAS CITY -- The calendar has turned to August, but that didn't slow Mariners lefty James Paxton's roll as he tied a franchise record by winning his seventh consecutive start in Friday's 5-2 victory over the Royals.
Paxton (12-3, 2.70 ERA), who became the first Mariners pitcher to win six games in a month with his dominant July, allowed four hits and two runs over six strong innings.
The man the known as "Big Maple" picked up a big win for the Mariners, moving the club to 1 1/2 games back of the Royals for the second American League Wild Card spot.
"He has absolutely carried us," manager Scott Servais said. "There is no doubt. He's embracing kind of being the guy we look to. When he came out of the game, all his teammates -- the feeling in the dugout -- was he's our guy. And good for him.
"If you look at where he was a year ago to where he's come, it's awesome. It's been a lot of hard work. He's very talented, but you still have to work your tail off, and it's nice to see him get the results."
Over his past seven starts, Paxton is 7-0 with a 1.59 ERA to go with 53 strikeouts and seven walks.
After missing four weeks with a strained forearm in May, Paxton now has enough innings to qualify for the AL ERA title -- moving into a tie with Red Sox lefty Chris Sale for the lead.
Paxton tied the franchise mark shared by Scott Bankhead (1989) and Jamie Moyer (2003) for consecutive winning starts, having not lost since June 27 against the Phillies. Paxton logged 4 1/3 no-hit innings against the Royals before giving up a single to Mike Moustakas, who advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Brandon Moss's single.
Another wild pitch cost Paxton a run -- and the lead -- when Whit Merrifield doubled, moved to third on Lorenzo Cain's single. Merrifield scored when Paxton bounced a pitch in the dirt that got briefly away from catcher Mike Zunino. Merrifield broke for home and Paxton appeared to have a shot at tagging him, but he couldn't hang on to the quick toss from Zunino.
"I went for the tag a split-second too soon and it just ticked off my glove," he said. "If I'd waited just a split second longer to catch the ball and then tag him, we would have got him. Z made a good feed."
Being a guy the Mariners count on now for big games means a lot to Paxton, but he's quick to note he's not doing it by himself.
"Absolutely," he said of stepping up. "And they did it too, tonight. They got the sticks. I gave up some runs and they came right back and answered. And the bullpen did a fantastic job also."