James Paxton pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on three hits as the Mariners opened a three-game series against the Blue Jays with a 2-1 victory at Rogers Centre on Friday night.

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TORONTO – On a night when the Mariners lived dangerously by getting plenty of chances to score but were largely unable to convert, their pitching came through against one of the most potent offensive teams in the American League.

James Paxton pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on three hits as the Mariners opened a three-game series against the Blue Jays with a 2-1 victory at Rogers Centre on Friday night.

The lone blemish came in the second inning when former Mariner and fellow Canadian Michael Saunders hit his 17th homer of the season.

“I was just rearing back and letting it rip,” said Paxton. “I wasn’t trying to be too cute on the corners or be too crafty. It was just going after them and attacking.”

Edwin Diaz came on in the eighth and struck out two of the three batters he faced, adding to his incredible introduction to the big leagues as few people have caught up to his blistering fastball.

Steve Cishek allowed two base runners with two outs in the ninth but struck out Saunders to pick up his 23rd save of the season.

“I don’t know what I can say. He’s been outstanding since he’s got here and certainly in the last two or three weeks with the good development of his slider,” said manager Scott Servais of Diaz.

“That’s made all the difference in the world. He did not have that pitch in the minor leagues, or he would have been with us sooner.”

The win moves the Mariners to 4½ games behind the Blue Jays for the second AL wild card. The Mariners have won 10 of their past 15 games against Toronto, and they hope that good form continues at a crucial time with the non-waiver trade deadline on Aug. 1.

As a British Columbia native, Paxton was born and raised closer to Seattle than Toronto but there’s still nothing like playing in front of compatriots, even if they’re cheering against him.

“It’s very cool to get a win in Canada and pitch in front of the Canadian fans and hear the Canadian anthem,” Paxton said. “That’s always special so it was very fun.”

The Mariners stranded 10 men on base but got the winning run when Seth Smith drove in Shawn O’Malley in the fifth with a soft double that he rolled up the third-base line. Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson wasn’t playing close to the line and looked to stumble slightly when he tried to make a play on the ball.

Paxton got into trouble in the sixth when Josh Donaldson’s two-out double put runners at second and third, but Paxton managed to strike out Toronto slugger Edwin Encarnacion.

Nori Aoki led off the game with a triple to right center and opened the scoring two batters later when Robinson Cano hit into a fielder’s choice.