Tuesday night in the Bronx the Yankees and Red Sox resumed their rivalry with a different tone. Both teams were struggling coming in and it was the first time the Yankees and Red Sox were both under. 500 since April 12, 2014 at Yankee Stadium.
You did not have to tell that to James Paxton. He said, “We want to beat Boston every time.” And the left-hander was acquired in the offseason to be that pitcher who can beat the Red Sox. Paxton had the adrenaline. He has seen a sports psychologist about the transition of pitching in New York.
Except, his first meeting with the Red Sox in Yankees pinstripes, well that did not require any psychology. Paxton and the struggling Yankees made a statement against the struggling world champions with a dominating 8-0 win.
For a change there was no talk about another injured Yankee. Greg Bird was the latest to join the injury ward in the Bronx, the 12th position player or pitcher. He is on the 10-day injured list with left plantar fascia tear and will wear a boot for the next two weeks.
Again the experiment with Bird is on hiatus. He could be gone longer. But Paxton, who struggled in his first three starts got his first win in the Bronx. He was dominant through eight innings. He threw strikes, pounded the zone, dominated with the fastball and had the Red Sox fooled with the curve.
He was dominant and in control. Paxton struck out 12. He struck out six consecutive Red Sox from his last batter faced in the sixth inning to his second batter in the eighth, a double down the left field line from Jackie Bradley.
Early April, 16th game of the season. Against the Red Sox in April every win counts even if they are not looking like the defending world champions. It was another makeshift lineup put together and manager Aaron Boone saw his team make a statement.
“It was a big start for me just to get my feet under me and show myself that I can be here and do this,” Paxton said.
And for the Yankees, this is what they expect from a pitcher who looked like an ace. More importantly, even if it was the first of 19 games against the Red Sox, the Yankees came together with this lineup and made a statement by hitting three home runs. They resembled a team that was expected to win like they did Tuesday night.
“There is a level of feeling we’ve been close.” said manager Aaron Boone.
He said the Yankees played a complete game and it came together with Paxton, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and newcomer Mike Tauchman hitting his first career home run.
“We’ve faltered in the starting pitching, or in relief or in the middle innings and haven’t been able to add on runs. Today was that complete game and Pax set the tone,” Boone said.
True, one game made a statement. And there is another one Wednesday night with the Red Sox. But the Yankees came out of this one with confidence and feel they are coming together, though it is difficult to envision a team down with so many players feeling they are a full unit.
“I feel like I really found something tonight,” Paxton said. He threw 110 pitches, gave up two hits, and is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five career starts against the Red Sox. Three of those wins have included shutouts of eight innings including this one Tuesday night.
Yes, the Yankees made a statement. Not a major one, but good enough to say this dreadful start can only get better. They have James Paxton but he can’t pitch every fifth day. He can’t pitch every game against the Red Sox.