TORONTO -- No-hitters don't happen on their own. Almost every no-no has "the play," a moment in time where hearts stop -- and so does the ball, in a fielder's glove.For James Paxton, the biggest play of many in Tuesday's historic 5-0 no-hit win over the Blue Jays was a
TORONTO -- No-hitters don't happen on their own. Almost every no-no has "the play," a moment in time where hearts stop -- and so does the ball, in a fielder's glove.
For James Paxton, the biggest play of many in Tuesday's historic 5-0 no-hit win over the Blue Jays was a spectacular diving play by third baseman Kyle Seager, who then bounced to his feet quick enough to fire to first and nail speedy Toronto center fielder Kevin Pillar for the final out in the seventh.
:: James Paxton no-hitter ::
"You try to make a play all the time, but man, that ball gets by you and it's hard to get any sleep tonight," said a smiling Seager. "It may be hard anyway. It was just an unbelievable game by Pax."
Seager also had a hand -- or glove -- on the final play of the game, when he short-hopped a hard grounder by Josh Donaldson in the hole and fired to first to set off the celebration.
"I threw that pitch as hard as I could and I saw the ball rocket toward third," said Paxton, who reached 99 mph on his final two pitches of the game. "And I kind of spun around and saw Seager -- it looked like he caught it with his stomach -- and all of a sudden I see him throwing it to first base, and I was just shocked.
"I was like, 'Holy smokes. I can't believe this happened.' I looked straight at [catcher Mike] Zunino and saw him running out, and I threw my arms up in the air and enjoyed the moment with my teammates. It was very special. It wouldn't have happened without that group of guys out there tonight. Everyone had a hand in that and it was an amazing feat."
It wasn't the first time that Seager had a hand in helping out a Mariners pitcher in the late innings of a no-hit bid. In the final frame of Hisashi Iwakuma's no-hitter on Aug. 12, 2015, Seager ranged deep to his right into foul ground to make a running basket catch for the first out of the inning.
Seager was among the eight defenders breathing a huge sigh of relief when this one was over, as no player wants to spoil a teammate's magical moment.
"It's such a crazy feeling. It's hard to describe," Seager said of the last out. "You legitimately want the ball hit to you, but you want it to be a popup in foul territory. That's what I was truly hoping for -- either be a strikeout or a popup in foul territory, those were my two options. But man, that was incredible. And it couldn't have happened to a better guy."
Since 2013, Seager has seen Paxton grow from a rookie out of Ladner, British Columbia, to work his way through a myriad of injuries and challenges to become one of the premier left-handers in the game. Paxton dominated at times last year, going 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA in July, but health issues again kept him from becoming a true ace.
Paxton had only gone 1-1 so far this season, despite pitching well at times, while posting a 4.19 ERA in seven outings. But 16 strikeouts in seven innings during his previous start against the A's foreshadowed an awakening when he discovered how effective his 97-98 mph fastball could be up in the zone.
And even when that command floundered a bit early against the Blue Jays and he walked three batters in the first four innings, Paxton went more to his curveball, regained his footing and then upped the velocity more and more as the game progressed.
"You think about his last two outings," Seager said. "Just unbelievable. He goes from striking out 16 in seven innings to his next outing being a no-hitter? That's taking it to a different level. He's been absolutely incredible. And we've seen this for a while. It's nice that he's starting to get some recognition for it."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB