SEATTLE -- Not only was it Canada Day with "The Big Maple", Canadian James Paxton on the mound for the Mariners' 1-0 victory over the Royals, it also was Paxton Bobblehead Day at Safeco Field.
This bobblehead included a bald eagle on his shoulder, a crazy moment that actually happened while working out in the outfield before a game this season in Minnesota. The video went viral.
Paxton allowed only two hits and struck out 11 in eight innings to lead the Mariners to their season-best seventh consecutive victory.
"Paxton enjoyed the moment," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "It was National Pax Day. A holiday in Canada, the bobblehead and the fans were really into it."
Paxton (8-2) had plenty of family and friends at the game from his hometown of Ladner, British Columbia.
"It was cool to pitch on Canada Day and have the bobblehead," Paxton said. "It felt good today. The fastball, curveball and cutter all were working."
Edwin Diaz struck out the side in the ninth for his 32nd save. The Mariners are 26-11 in one-run games this season and 22-0 when Diaz enters the game with a one-run lead.
"As far as being valuable to our team, he has to be the top of the list," Servais said about Diaz. "He isn't just getting it done, it's also the efficiency of how he's getting it done. When his timing is right, he's really tough to hit."
"He's doing everything you want a starting pitcher to do," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Complete game. He was fantastic. He's out there attacking with his fastball, slider, throwing strikes and really commanding his pitch count."
It was the first complete game of Keller's career.
"After the game a few guys came up and said congratulations," Keller said. "I've never had one before and it's pretty cool, but it's frustrating (taking the loss). That's tough lineup. A lot of good hitters over there. I tried to stay on the attack and not fall behind too much."
That's all Paxton needed, recording double-figure strikeouts for the seventh time this season. On his 110th pitch, his last of the game to close out the top of the eighth, his fastball was clocked at 99 mph.
"Late in the game he just dialed it up," Servais said. "Pax emptied the tank and let it rip. He had an overpowering fastball at the end. It's pretty rare. There are only five to 10 guys in baseball who can do that and we're lucky to have one of them."
Royals: RHP Ian Kennedy, who experienced tightness on his left side during his start Friday, had his normal throwing day in the bullpen Sunday, but Kansas City manager Ned Yost did not say whether Kennedy would make his next scheduled start. Yost said RF Jorge Soler (fractured toe and placed in the 10-day DL June 17) is still on a six-weeks-or-so recovery, so it's likely another four weeks before he would return.
Mariners: Manager Scott Servais said they will monitor RHP Felix Hernandez and his back stiffness over the next few days. Hernandez pitched five innings Saturday night and earned the victory (three runs and six hits) but struggled with back pain and wasn't able to sit down in the dugout between innings. "We'll keep an eye on it," Servais said. "We have the off day (Monday) so he'll get an extra-day off between starts." ... Servais said he was hopeful RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, who underwent shoulder surgery last September, would be back by now, but Iwakuma's throwing was shut down again last week. "He's frustrated by that," Servais said. "The doctors still are optimistic he'll get back (this season) but I don't have any timetable for it."
Royals: RHP Jakob Junis (5-9, 4.67) will make his 17th starts of the season Monday when the Royals return home to start a three-game series with Cleveland. Junis has allowed a major league-high 22 home runs over 96.1 innings.
Mariners: LHP Wade LeBlanc (3-0, 3.38) will make his 12th starts of the season Tuesday when Seattle starts a three-game series at home against the Angels. LeBlanc hasn't lost a decision in his 11 starts and the Mariners are 8-3 in those games.
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