The Yankees entered tonight’s big series against the Dodgers on a four game losing streak. They were swept in Oakland and looked pretty lifeless during that series. As frustrating as it was, this team has shown a resiliency all year. They put up an impressive performance in their 10-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers (box score here). The Yanks are 84-46 and have a 8 game lead in the AL East. They remain a game ahead of the Astros in the race for home field advantage in the AL. The Bronx Bombers showed why they’re one of the best teams in baseball. Here are the takeaways.
1. Big Maple’s Big Start: This was James Paxton’s most impressive start as a Yankee. Heading into the game with his team on a four game losing streak, Paxton took on the role of stopper and he excelled. He had fantastic rhythm, featured an impressive mix of pitches and most importantly commanded all quadrants of the strike zone. This is the pitcher the Yankees traded for in the offseason.
We are well aware of Paxton’s first inning struggles. It feels like he is two different pitchers during his starts. Here are some eye popping numbers when it comes to Paxton and the first inning courtesy of the Yes Network’s James Smyth:
Tonight featured a totally different James Paxton. The biggest difference between tonight and his previous starts was the velocity on his fastball:
This is a pretty significant jump. Paxton may have changed his pre-game routine to account for the bump in velocity. It is also possible he decided to air it out from the first pitch. In either case, the jump in velo made a huge difference in the first inning. Guys were way behind the fastball. Paxton also did a great job of locating that pitch. Paxton ended the first with a 70% strike percentage. You’ll take that any day of the week.
Paxton continues to mix up his pitches in his starts. Alex Rodriguez had a great quote about Paxton’s approach. A-Rod said Paxton was pitching like a finesse pitcher with a 95mph fastball. Out of his 109 pitches, he threw 49 four seamers, 22 cutters, 34 curveballs, and 2 sliders. He even threw a changeup to AJ Pollock to start off his third at bat. This approach is clearly working for Paxton. The Dodgers hitters were off balance all night.
The pitch mix doesn’t really work if a pitcher doesn’t have command. Paxton had it in spades tonight. He had a 64.4% strike rate with his four seamer. In addition, Paxton was able to throw his cutter and knuckle curve for strikes at a rate of 76.5% and 61.8% respectively. James generated 29 swings and misses. This may be the best command of Paxton’s season. It is definitely his best knuckle curve of the year.
As the season enters its final weeks, Paxton is emerging as a reliable front end of the rotation starter. This is one of the toughest tests he’s faced all year and he was superb. There are very real questions about this starting rotation heading into the playoffs, but performances like these begin to quiet them a bit.
2. Star Power: It’s pretty nice to see the Yankees flex their muscles up and down the lineup again isn’t it? Coming into tonight’s game, NL Cy Young contender, Hyun-Jin Ryu, only gave up 7ER and 3HR combined in 11 home starts. The Yankees showed up and said hold my beer:
The big blow was Didi’s grand slam in the fifth. Dave Roberts called for an intentional walk of the Kraken, which made total sense. Gary hit a homer earlier and Roberts wanted the left on left matchup. Didi ambushed Ryu and put the game out of reach.
There is an unfair amount of criticism thrown Didi’s way this season. It is incredibly difficult to return to true form immediately after recovering from a major injury. Gregorius is playing without an offseason and spring training. He is a really valuable two way player and that value showed up today. Plus, there is this nugget from Katie Sharp:
The devastating version of Aaron Judge is back. Beyond the recent pulled home runs, he’s commanding his strike zone better and crushing mistakes. Aaron is stubborn with his approach almost to a fault. He can be that way because more times than not it works. Judge finished the night 3 for 5 and a 14.2 WPA. Two of the hits were lasers including a 108.9MPH home run to left center. This is just a guess, but Aaron looks healthy.
Gary Sanchez is one of the most imposing offensive players in the game. Prior to his injury, the Kraken went through timing issues that impacted his swing. That isn’t the case right now. Sanchez is locked in. This lineup is completely different when Gary is in a good place. He hit his 100th career home run tonight and made some history in the process:
Dude is a stud.
3. Uni Watch: A lot has been made today about the Player’s Weekend uniforms. In my opinion, a little too much has been made about them. Yes, the players look like pieces from the Othello board game. It is true you can’t make out the nicknames on the back of the white jerseys. It isn’t the end of the world. There is a lot of griping about the Yankees and Dodgers not playing each other in their traditional uniforms. These franchises have faced one another eleven times in the World Series. They matched up in 2016 wearing their normal uniforms. We’ve seen it before many times.
There is nothing wrong with changing things up a bit for a few days. The casual fan knows what the original unis look like. MLB sells plenty of caps from both teams. The more important thing is we’re getting a glimpse into the personalities of the men wearing the jerseys. The criticism feels like get off my lawn complaints that the Player’s Weekend idea is trying to combat. And don’t worry, we’ll see these two teams wearing their regular uniforms in this year’s Fall Classic.
News and Notes:
- Didi ended his night with two home runs and five RBIs. What a night.
- Gleyber Torres hit another home run. He has 32 on the year. Torres is a MVP candidate and he’s only 22.
- Boone changed his lineup around and it worked. This should be the lineup as long as the guys on the IL aren’t around. You can switch up Tauchman and Maybin based on matchups, but this lineup works much better than the ones we saw in Oakland. Boone should give his best hitters as many at bats as he can. It also gives guys like Didi a chance to take advantage of pitchers who think they’re entering a softer spot in the lineup. The intentional walk of Gary to get to Gregorius is an example.
The Yankees and Dodgers continue this three game series tomorrow afternoon at 4:05pm. It will be CC Sabathia against Tony Gonsolin. Have a great night everyone.