With the Yankees season on the line, James Paxton delivered his first signature moment with the Yankees, giving up one run on four hits over six innings and throwing a season-high 112 pitches.
“It was my best performance in a big situation, for sure,” he said after New York’s 4-1 win in Game 5 of the ALCS to send the series back to Houston. “This is the postseason. I had better games this season but as far as moments and needing to do what I did, this is definitely the biggest game for me.”
Brian Cashman sent three minor leaguers to the Mariners last off-season for the southpaw. Through July, Paxton was 5-6 with a 4.72 ERA. Then he won 10 starts in a row and lowered his ERA to 3.73. He pitched 150.2 innings this season, only going seven innings twice. Aaron Boone is not shy about giving his starters the hook but with two outs in the sixth and a runner on, manager asked pitcher how he felt.
“I’m good. Let’s go,” Fox cameras picked up Paxton saying. Robinson Chirinos flied out to end the inning.
“He gave me the chance to compete and keep on going. I wanted it. And I did everything I could,” Paxton said. “When that ball went up I was begging to stay in and it did, and just got fired up. It was awesome.”
Getting 18 outs in a series in which the relievers have been taxed and Game 6 will be a bullpen day, Paxton’s performance was vital.
“I thought James was great today,” Boone said. “He came in with just an edge, a focus.”
Paxton admitted he was overthrowing in the first, when a wild pitch scored a run. The Yankees responded with four in the bottom of the frame off Justin Verlander and that would be all the scoring on the night.
The last time Paxton pitched at home was the opening game of the ALDS, when he gave up three runs in 4.2 innings. He spoke about controlling his adrenaline in the Bronx environment.
“Feeling that for the first time in the DS, I couldn’t feel my body the entire time,” he said. “It was just numb. Just the experience of going out there is getting more and more comfortable each time out. And I just feel like I have more feel with my body.”
While some fans criticized Cashman for not adding another starter during the season, such as Marcus Stroman, while the Astros acquired Zack Greinke, it was his acquisition that kept the season alive on Friday.
“My goal was to go out there and give it everything I had for my team,” Paxton said. “I wasn’t ready to go home yet so I wanted to go out and give my team everything I had and just battle away. And that’s what I did out there, and it worked out.”