TORONTO — James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners became the first Canadian to pitch a no-hitter in his home country, shutting down the Blue Jays 5-0 Tuesday night.
Paxton joined Dick Fowler of the 1945 Philadelphia Athletics as the only Canadians to throw a no-hitter.
Paxton, who’s from British Columbia, pointed to a giant tattoo on his right forearm of a maple leaf — a national symbol of Canada — as he celebrated to a standing ovation at Rogers Centre.
“Of all places, to do it in Toronto, it’s pretty amazing,” he said.
“The fans were great. They were giving me some trouble in the seventh inning, but once I got past that, they started kind of cheering me on. It was cool,” he said.
The 29-year-old lefty nicknamed “The Big Maple” threw 99 pitches in tossing the third no-hitter in the majors this year — all three have come in different countries.
Oakland’s Sean Manaea pitched one against Boston on April 21 in California. Four Los Angeles Dodgers combined to no-hit San Diego in Mexico last Friday.
Coming off a career-high 16 strikeouts in his last start, Paxton (2-1) was electric once again, hitting 100 mph with his fastball while retiring Josh Donaldson on a grounder to end it.
Paxton struck out seven, walked three and benefited from an outstanding play by third baseman Kyle Seager. With two outs in the seventh, the former Gold Glover made a full-length diving stop on speedy Kevin Pillar’s grounder down the line, then slung an off-balance throw that first baseman Ryon Healy snagged on one hop.
Russell Martin led off the Toronto eighth with a long drive that left fielder Ben Gamel caught near the wall.
“What a defense tonight. That was amazing. Those guys were making every play,” Paxton said.
Anthony Alford fouled out on the first pitch to begin the ninth and Teoscar Hernandez struck out swinging. Donaldson ended it with a hard one-hopper to Seager.
Healy pumped his fist after catching Seager’s throw, and the Mariners streamed out of the dugout, dousing their pitcher with a cooler as the crowd of 20,513 cheered.
After his teammates had left the field, Paxton came back out and waved to the fans as they clapped in appreciation of his feat.
“The balls that were hit hard went right to people, and then we had the defense making amazing plays like Kyle’s last play,” he said. “And he had another diving play in the seventh inning, it was just ridiculous.”
Paxton’s season has taken off since a bald eagle mistakenly landed on his shoulder before a start last month. He’s 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA over seven starts since the bird stuck its talons into his back before the Minnesota Twins’ home opener.
Fowler threw his no-hitter on Sept. 9, 1945, against the St. Louis Browns. He had recently returned from serving in the Canadian military during World War II, missing two full seasons, and pitched his gem in his first start of the year.
This was the sixth no-hitter for the Mariners franchise, and the first since Hisashi Iwakuma did it against Baltimore in 2015. Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game in 2012, and Randy Johnson tossed Seattle’s first no-hitter in 1990.
It was the first no-hitter against the Blue Jays since Detroit’s Justin Verlander did it in Toronto on May 7, 2011. Toronto has been no-hit five times.
Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer as the Mariners improved to 12-6 on the road.
Marcus Stroman (0-5) remained winless in seven starts. The right-hander allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings, and has a 7.71 ERA.