Game 8: Judge sweeps the Sox away

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It wasn’t always pretty, but thanks to Aaron Judge and the rest of the offense, the Yankees completed a three game sweep against the Red Sox tonight at the Stadium. The victory moves the Yankees to a league best 7-1 and drops Boston to 3-7.

James Paxton still wasn’t quite right, though it was nothing as bad or as jarring as his first start in DC. The glovework behind him hurt Paxton quite a bit as well, but much of that was forgotten thanks to Judge’s heroics. Let’s break this one down.

Good, but not Max Kepler good

I’m at a loss for words for how good Aaron Judge is. He’s absolutely on fire right now and delivered two monstrous and clutch homers tonight. Oh, and he’s now homered in five straight games.

Judge launched his first dinger of the night with two outs in the second inning off Boston lefty Matt Hall. Look at this beauty:

Things weren’t so hot before that dinger. The Yanks were down 2-0, James Paxton’s stuff clearly wasn’t there (more on that in a moment), and the defense looked lackluster. Instead, Judge turned things around with one swing of the bat to make it 3-2.

He now has a homer in five straight games, something a Yankee hasn’t done since A-Rod did so in 2007. The MLB record is eight games in a row, held by three players including one Yankee: Don Mattingly, Ken Griffey Jr., and Dale Long.

We’ll get to Judge’s second majestic blast in a second, but let’s build up to it first…

Down, but never out

The Yankees overcame four deficits in this one: 2-0, 5-3, 6-5, and 7-6. We already discussed how Judge erased Boston’s early 2-0 lead above, but let’s get into the other mini-comebacks.

The Red Sox took a 5-3 lead in the top half of the third inning, but the Yankees didn’t let that survive the bottom half of the frame. Giancarlo Stanton led off the frame with a walk, but Hall retired Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit to settle down. Or, so he thought. Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela delivered back-to-back doubles to tie this one up at 5. Let me re-emphasize that these two runs came with two outs. Do I sense a theme here? Judge’s three-run dinger earlier came with two outs as well.

Boston retook the lead a couple of innings later, but the Yankees had a little more two out magic in them. Enter Luke Voit:

Of course, the Red Sox took one more lead just so the Yankees could prove a point about two out hitting. Up 7-6 in the eighth, manager Ron Roenicke handed the ball to Matt Barnes, one of the few relievers in Boston’s bullpen that any of us have heard of. Things looked somewhat cushy for the Sox as Barnes put away Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela to start the frame.

But as we well know, things are never safe against this Yankees’ lineup. Mike Tauchman drew a walk and stole second base with DJ LeMahieu at the dish. As if DJLM wasn’t going to deliver in the clutch:

7-7. Then, once more, Judge did the thing:

468 feet! What a blast. He’s on another planet right now. That made it 9-7 and the Bombers never looked back.

A defensive letdown behind Paxton

We got the fun stuff out of the way. Now, let’s turn to James Paxton’s start. His second outing of the year certainly wasn’t what we had hoped for, but the defense behind him made matters worse. In three innings, the lefty gave up five runs (three earned) and seven hits.

It was obvious that Paxton didn’t have his velocity again right out of the gate, but that didn’t stop him from retiring the first two batters he faced. In fact, he probably should have had a 1-2-3 first inning in spite of his 91 to 92 MPH average fastball velocity. With two outs, Aaron Hicks took a poor route on a JD Martinez fly ball which resulted in a double. The next batter, Xander Bogaerts, made the Yanks pay. He drilled a middle-middle fastball into the right field seats:

Paxton recovered for a scoreless second, but ran into trouble again in the third. Although, the trouble once again wasn’t all his own doing. Kevin Pillar hit a ground rule double that had no business landing uncaught. Again, Hicks had trouble. He pulled up on his route in right-center field looked up as if he was awaiting the ball to go over the fence. Instead, it dropped on the track and then ricocheted over the wall. Rafael Devers then singled Pillar in to even the score at three.

Defense was a problem again a couple batters later: Miguel Andújar booted a routine Bogaerts line drive single in left field which brought Devers around to score to make it 4-3 Boston. Bogaerts made it to third as a result of the error. Then, inexplicably, the Yankees played the infield in with one out in the third against Boston’s awful pitching. In turn, Christian Vázquez ripped a single past the drawn in infield to make it 5-3. Might have been a hit with the infield back anyway, but it wasn’t a good process. Finally, Paxton wiggled his way out of the rest of the frame with no more damage, but that was it for the night.

Paxton’s stuff

Unfortunately, Paxton didn’t alleviate concerns about his stuff tonight. His fastball is his go to pitch, historically sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s. Tonight, the lefty averaged 91.5 miles per hour on his fastball. That average fastball velocity was actually worse than his first start of the season (92.4 MPH). He was also short on max velocity (92.9) compared to his outing against the Nationals (93.8).

Two quick caveats on fastball velocity here. One, maybe Paxton took a little bit off tonight in order to locate better. His mechanics have been all out of whack, after all. Two, there could be some Hawkeye calibration issues here. The rollout of the new tracking system has reportedly shown some inconsistencies across ballparks that are still being ironed out. In any case, what we’re seeing from Paxton’s fastball still isn’t good.

To no surprise, Paxton without his big heater isn’t going to result in a ton of whiffs. He garnered just eight swings-and-misses on 62 pitches. Red Sox hitters also fouled off 15 of his offerings.

Now, for the silver lining. Paxton’s location seemed quite a bit better this evening. He didn’t walk anyone and was much more around the plate compared to his last outing.

Here’s what it looked like against Washington:

Hopefully that’s an indication of some mechanical adjustments made in between starts. If so, tonight is (sort of) a step in the right direction. Paxton still needs to find his blazing fastball to be anything remotely like he was toward the end of last year, of course. We’ll see how things go next time around.

Leftovers

  • Michael King relieved Paxton and pitched relatively well. His two-seamer was really working and helped him earn four strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. However, he did give up two solo shots to Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.
  • Adam Ottavino was shaky, but held the Red Sox scoreless in 1 1/3 innings of work between the seventh and eight innings. He earned his first win of the year.
  • Zack Britton notched his third save in a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
  • Yankees’ pitching had no answer for Bogaerts and Devers tonight. The duo on the left side of Boston’s infield went a ridiculous 6-for-9 and drove in 5 of the Red Sox’ 7 runs tonight. Bogaerts hit two homers and Devers pitched in one longball.

Whew, I’m spent. Another ridiculously long Sunday night Yanks-Sox game on ESPN, but at least it was a fun one.

The Yanks are back in action tomorrow against the Phillies. It’s the start of four games made up from last week after MLB rearranged the schedule following the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak.

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3 Comments

  1. Smurfy

    Wow, I just want to get on the record that that was a great game, most fulfilling to this fan. I got drunk in celebration, fun night, thanks Judgie and Gio and Derek: well written, though coulda mentioned that, it COULD be the best game of the year! If not, we’ve gotta TEAM!

  2. Wire Fan

    King looked good. While you can’t just pretend the homers didn’t happen, he was otherwise commanding his pitches real well.

    Hicks even looked bad on a couple of catches where he was taking weird routes. Hopefully just an off night.

    I like Torres but they need to put Judge and Stanton back to back. If Judge is going to be pitched around, let Stanton make people pay. These guys are both locked in.

    And the bonus to this sweep was the O’s sweeping the Rays.

    • Smurfy

      Right @ King; Torres definitely needs to actuate, mebbe from a different vantage. Yow, gotta look into Birds sweeping Rays, my oh my, didn’t know, thank you so.

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