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Things are fun right now, aren’t they? Aaron Judge returned to action tonight as the Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1. They lost Cameron Maybin to injury (calf strain) tonight, but they have won 7 in a row, hold a 5 game lead over the second-place Rays, and own baseball’s third-best record and run differential. The Yankees are very, very good and it’s a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch.

It’s already late on a Friday, so let’s get right to tonight’s takeaways.

1. James Paxton Looks More Like James Paxton Again: Tonight was James Paxton’s 5th start since returning from the Injured List, and it’s safe to say that things have been inconsistent for Big Maple. After throwing 4 pretty dominant innings against San Diego in his first start back, Paxton was roughed up by the Blue Jays and the Mets. He surrendered 10 runs in 7.1 innings pitched, which is, as an old friend used to say, Not What You Want. He followed that up, though, with a nice start against Chicago in which he gave up 2 runs in 6 innings, and he came into tonight looking to build on that progress.

I think we can say that he did so, even if he was far from the dominant Paxton we saw earlier in the year. In 5 plus innings pitched, Big Maple gave up 5 hits, surrendered 1 run, struck out 7 men, and walked 3. Still, it’s good to see Paxton be effective against a lineup as deep as Houston’s. Even down Correa and Springer, Houston has 5 guys in their starting 9 with an OPS over .800, plus the recently-returned José Altuve. That’s a deep lineup, and they absolutely torched Paxton earlier in the year.

Here’s Paxton’s strike zone plot from tonight:

Lots of pitches in the middle of the zone there, and quite a few pitches not even close, but hey, a win is a win and he certainly didn’t get punished. He did need more than 20 pitches to escape the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (plus 17 to escape the 5th) so it wasn’t the easiest night for him.

Still, that’s two good starts in a row result wise for Paxton, so hopefully, he can continue to shake off the rust and return to form. Things are trending in the right direction, at least.

2. Gary Sánchez is Unstoppable: Is it even possible to get Gary Sánchez out any more? Our man has played in 55 games so far in 2019, and he has a hit in 41 of those games. 41! That’s 75 percent. The man is a machine. He really is. Tonight, the Kraken sent another ball into orbit. Check out this absolute shot:

481 feet, 113+ mph. Unreal. He’s a catcher! It’s just unreal. Peacock’s pitch was down and tailing away from Sánchez, and it doesn’t even matter. His power is out of this world. That’s now 23 home runs on the season for The Gary. I think it’s safe to say that he’s rebounded from his awful 2018. He’s been the NYY MVP in 2019 so far, with all due respect to DJLM.

3. Gleyber Torres is a Damn Superstar in the Making: Gleyber Torres is 22 years old. He’d be the youngest player in AAA Scranton and the youngest position player in AA Trenton, were he a normal person. Instead, he’s hitting .287/.347/.544 (131 wRC+) with 18 home runs in the big leagues, building off a tremendous 2018 rookie campaign. Also, as a quick aside, the Yankee lineup is so deep that he hit 7th tonight. Lol.

Anyway, here’s what he did tonight:

First, he drove a pitch opposite field out of the yard to extend the Yankee lead from 2-1 to 4-1 in the bottom of the 7th. Those insurance runs are huge, no matter how good your bullpen is. They’re huge.

Then, in the top of the 8th, he started this smooth, smooth double play to help bail Zack Britton out of a jam of his own making. The kid is just so insanely talented and fun to watch. As long as Judge is around, it’s going to be difficult to steal the crown of “best hitter on the Yankees”, but if anyone is going to be able to do it, it’s going to be Torres. He is capital-L Legit. What a stud.

4. The Yankee Bullpen is Impossible: Finally, four scoreless tonight from the A-team Yankee bullpen. Ottavino, Kahnle, Britton and Chapman combined for 4 IP, surrendered only 2 hits, and struck out 4. They did walk 4 men (two of whom by Britton’s doing) but the above double play erased that threat.

The Yanks build a monster pen precisely so they can remove their starter early in the game with a slim lead against a good team, and that’s exactly what happened tonight. Paxton surrendered a leadoff double in the 6th, putting the tying run in scoring position–and, as he so often has this year, Boone turned to his best reliever. Ottavino shut the door, and the rest of the Yanks’ pen did the same as the Yanks added on to their lead. Just like the formula says.

Tonight, I leave you with this. After home plate umpire Dan Iassogna called a very close pitch (it was a strike) ball 3, Adam Ottavino snapped off a nasty slider and let Iassogna know how he felt about the previous pitch. Check it out and enjoy:

The Yankees are red hot, and let’s hope they keep this up tomorrow. Winning is better than losing, if you ask me. Tomorrow’s game is one of those annoying Saturday night games, taking place at 7:15 in the Bronx. Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.23 ERA) takes the hill for New York (48-27) against Wade Miley (6-4, 3.30 ERA) for Houston (48-29). You can catch it on FOX. Have a good night, everyone.