Associated Press

Oh, Canada! James Paxton follows up a gem with a masterpiece

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A mere six days ago we were talking about James Paxton turning in one of the most dominant starts of the season. Tonight he topped it.

Last Wednesday Paxton faced the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field and he gave them no quarter. He went seven innings in that outing, shutting out the A’s bats and striking out 16 souls. That set the mark for the most strikeouts in a game this season, tied two days later by Gerrit Cole of the Astros. Sadly for Paxton, however, the Mariners lost that contest when the Seattle bullpen was unable to hold a 2-0 lead in the final two innings.

Tonight Paxton decided not to leave things to chance.

Paxton’s no-hitter was impressive because all no-hitters are impressive, but his economy and his velocity were particularly impressive. In an age when even the good starters are hitting their pitch counts in the sixth inning, Paxton was parsimonious, needing only 99 pitches to make it through the game. There have been 75 no-hitters since Major League Baseball began tracking pitch counts back in the late 80s. Only 12 of them came in under 100 pitches.

That pacing obviously helped Paxton’s strength, as he was able to deliver his two fastest pitches of the night — indeed, his two fastest pitches of the season — in the final inning. His second-to-last pitch clocked in on the Rogers Centre gun at 100 m.p.h. His final pitch hit 99. Adrenaline was no doubt surging through Paxton’s system tonight, but his fast work and his willingness to rely on his defense rather than strike out a dozen or more guys certainly helped.

About that defense: kudos to Kyle Seager for the play he made to end the seventh inning. Kevin Pillar smoked one down the line that had double written all over it. Seager hit the deck to stop it, fired to first and, thanks to Ryon Healy‘s nice scoop, nailed the speedy Pillar:

Most no-hitters involve a little bit of luck, most involve a little bit of defensive help. Paxton got both on this night.

Beyond the dominance and beyond the plays that made it happen, though, Paxton’s no-hitter was a nice moment for an entire country.

Paxton is from Canada. British Columbia, not Ontario, so he’s not exactly local, but doing it in front of his countrymen had to make this a special moment for him. Paxton is only the second Canadian pitcher to toss a no-hitter. The last one was 73 years ago, when Dick Fowler of the Philadelphia A’s no-hit the St. Louis Browns on Sept. 9, 1945. I’m going to guess that absolutely no one outside of some MLBAM intern at Rogers Centre tonight knew that. They did know that Paxton was making history, though, and, once the conclusion of the game became forgone and the no-hitter came closer to reality, they began to cheer for the opposing team’s pitcher. Paxton:

“Of all places, here in Toronto, it’s pretty amazing. The fans 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.”

As he came off the field after the game, Paxton showed off his Maple Leaf tattoo to the Toronto crowd:

(The Canadian Press via AP)

If your hometown boys have to be dominated, I suppose it’s best that they get dominated by another (sorta) hometown boy. James “Big Maple” Paxton. Owner of the sixth no-hitter in Mariners history and the third no-hitter on the 2018 season.

Nationals’ major leaguers to continue offering financial assistance to minor leaguers

Sean Doolittle
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
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On Sunday, we learned that while the Nationals would continue to pay their minor leaguers throughout the month of June, their weekly stipend would be lowered by 25 percent, from $400 to $300. In an incredible act of solidarity, Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle and his teammates put out a statement, saying they would be covering the missing $100 from the stipends.

After receiving some criticism, the Nationals reversed course, agreeing to pay their minor leaguers their full $400 weekly stipend.

Doolittle and co. have not withdrawn their generosity. On Wednesday, Doolittle released another statement, saying that he and his major league teammates would continue to offer financial assistance to Nationals minor leaguers through the non-profit organization More Than Baseball.

The full statement:

Washington Nationals players were excited to learn that our minor leaguers will continue receiving their full stipends. We are grateful that efforts have been made to restore their pay during these challenging times.

We remain committed to supporting them. Nationals players are partnering with More Than Baseball to contribute funds that will offer further assistance and financial support to any minor leaguers who were in the Nationals organization as of March 1.

We’ll continue to stand with them as we look forward to resuming our 2020 MLB season.

Kudos to Doolittle and the other Nationals continuing to offer a helping hand in a trying time. The players shouldn’t have to subsidize their employers’ labor expenses, but that is the world we live in today.