Every once in a while everything comes together and you remember just how good the 2019 Yankees can be, even while dealing with all those injuries. James Paxton thoroughly manhandled the Red Sox in Tuesday night’s 8-0 series opening win. What a performance. Fun game. Would watch again.
Big Game James
Earlier this week, James Paxton mentioned special advisor Carlos Beltran told him he was tipping his pitches against the Astros last week. Specifically, he had a tell that allowed the runner at second to pick up the pitch type, and then relay it to the hitter. A problem? Sure. It also kinda sounded like he was making excuses given how few runners were actually at second base in Houston.
There are no excuses needed after Tuesday night. Paxton was brilliant in his fourth start as a Yankee and in his first start against the Red Sox as a Yankee. That’s a pretty big deal. Paxton threw gas all night — his fastball averaged 97.0 mph and topped out at 99.2 mph — and he used his fastball a ton. Here’s the pitch breakdown:
- Four-seamers: 80
- Cutters: 25
- Curveballs: 5
It takes a special fastball to dominate a game while throwing 72% heaters. That just doesn’t happen. Paxton mixed in enough cutters to keep the Red Sox honest — it wasn’t until the seventh and eighth innings that he broke out the curveball — but, generally speaking, he stuck with the fastball all night because the BoSox could not hit it. They swung and missed at his heater ten times and and, when they made contact, the average exit velocity was 86.8 mph.
Paxton mentioned that he watched some video following his last start and realized he wasn’t driving off the mound as much as he should, so he corrected things in the bullpen, and was able to let it rip Tuesday. Again, his fastball averaged 97.0 and topped out at 99.2 mph. In his first three starts it averaged 95.4 mph and topped out at 98.2 mph. That little bit of extra velocity can make a huge difference.
The game’s big moment came in the fourth inning, immediately after the Yankees took a 2-0 lead. Paxton walked Mookie Betts and allowed a double off the tippy top of the right field wall to Xander Bogaerts, putting runners at second and third with no outs for the 3-4-5 hitters. Paxton stranded both runners with two fly balls — Aaron Judge held Betts at third both times with his arm — and a strikeout. He’s a pretty quiet guy, but he showed some emotion after escaping the jam.
- April 16th, 2019: James Paxton vs. Red Sox (89 Game Score)
- July 24th, 2018: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Rays (89 Game Score)
- July 26th, 2005: Randy Johnson vs. Twins (89 Game Score)
- August 17th, 2003: Mike Mussina vs. Orioles (90 Game Score)
The 12 strikeouts are the most by a Yankee against the Red Sox since Joba Chamberlain (!) in 2009. It is one short of the most strikeouts ever by a Yankee against the Red Sox (13 has been done several times) and it is the second highest strikeout total of Paxton’s career, trailing only his 16-strikeout game last season. Do we like this guy yet, or what? What a brilliant performance. Everything the Yankees needed and then some.
Score Early, Score Often
For the Red Sox, I suppose the good news is Chris Sale showed (by far) his liveliest fastball of the season Tuesday night. He averaged 95.5 mph and topped out at 97.5 mph with his heater. Sale had not thrown a pitch that hard since last August, in the start immediately before he landed on the then-disabled list with a shoulder problem. The velocity was good. Everything else? Bad.
Sale cruised through two innings before things started to fall apart in the third. Brett Gardner roped a leadoff double to right field and later scored on DJ LeMahieu’s two-strike, two-out, single to right. Sale threw LeMahieu several elevated fastballs in his first two at-bats — he struck him out on one in his first at-bat, in fact — but this time LeMahieu was ready for it, and he bounced it through the infield.
Judge walked and Luke Voit plopped a single to center later in the inning to give the Yankees a two-run lead. Judge would’ve been thrown out at second before LeMahieu crossed the plate on Voit’s single — Judge took too wide a turn around second — but Eduardo Nunez could not handle Jackie Bradley Jr.’s short-hopped throw. The Yankees have been shooting themselves in the foot with sloppy mistakes this year. Finally, someone out-sloppy-ed them.
Three straight Yankees reached base with two outs to push across two runs in that third inning. Stringing together that many baserunners feels impossible against vintage Chris Sale. In the fourth inning, Clint Frazier added a solo home run and Mike Tauchman doubled into the corner to score Austin Romine from first base. Can’t say I saw that last part coming. Some numbers on Sale:
- First time through lineup: 1 for 9 (.111) with one double and three strikeouts
- Thereafter: 6 for 13 (.462) with one double, one homer, one walk, and three strikeouts
Sale called his performance “flat-out embarrassing,” and he is now the proud owner of a 8.50 ERA (6.36 FIP) through four starts and 18 innings. He’s allowed 17 runs in 18 innings. Last season he allowed his 17th run in his 63rd inning. That dude is clearly not himself right now. The velocity was up Tuesday but is still not back to where it was last year, his command stinks, and hitters are comfortable in the box. Hate to see. (Note: I don’t hate to see it.)
Paxton is the story of this game, clearly. If it weren’t for him, this would be The Mike Tauchman game. Tauchman doubled in that fourth inning run against Sale and officially turned this game into a laugher with a three-run home run against Erasmo Ramirez in the sixth inning. First career homer to cap off a 2-for-4 night.
Frazier homered and he was in the lineup because Giancarlo Stanton went on the injured list two weeks ago. Gio Urshela? He was in the lineup because Miguel Andujar is out injured. Urshela went 1-for-4 with a double Tuesday night, but most notably, he stole a base hit (maybe an extra-base hit) away from Mookie Betts with an insane play at third.
Here’s the video. Urshela slipped on the grass and managed to make a strong and accurate throw over to first base while falling backwards. Again, that is Mookie Betts running, and he is not not slow.
Voit’s third inning single extended his on-base streak to 27 games. That is the second longest active streak in the big leagues — Tommy Pham is up to 48 games with the Rays — and the longest by a Yankee since Judge had a 32-gamer in May and June of 2017. Voit struggled for a good seven or eight games immediately following his big Opening Day. He’s looked much better at the dish the last few games.
Every starter had at least one hit. Gleyber Torres hit an opposite field solo homer — it was good to see him and Frazier go the other way after getting a little pull happy following that big series in Baltimore — and Judge (two singles) and Tauchman (double, homer) had two hits each. Judge drew a walk as well, and Gardner had a double and a walk. It was a great night up and down the lineup. It really was.
Paxton’s eight innings gave the bullpen a rest, though it really wasn’t needed after the off-day. Still, I’ll take it. Joe Harvey threw 14 pitches in the ninth inning and pitched around an infield single. Good night all around. Great team win.
The second game of this quick two-game series. Current Yankee J.A. Happ and former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi are the scheduled starting pitchers. That’s another 6:35pm ET start. Wasn’t it nice to have a Yankees vs. Red Sox game over at 9pm ET? Let’s do that again.