Aaron Boone has been a relentlessly glass-half-full kind of guy in his two seasons managing the Yankees, and he demonstrated that again late Wednesday morning.
“I always have high expectations when we give the ball to James Paxton,” Boone said. “Expect him to be able to give us some good quality.”
Still, with the lefthander making his first start since going to the injured list May 4 with left knee inflammation, there was no way for Boone to feel totally confident.
Paxton then went out and dominated, throwing four hitless innings and striking out seven in the Yankees' 7-0 victory over the Padres at the Stadium. He was on a strict pitch count of 70 to 75 and was pulled after 66. He walked two and lowered his ERA to 2.81.
“Unbelievable. He didn’t look like he missed a month,” Luke Voit said. “His fastball was effective up in the zone, and then you have guys chasing his slider down and in. It’s nice to have one of our big studs back. For him to come out and do that is pretty awesome because you don’t know what’s going to happen [coming off the IL]. That’s a pretty good lineup over there.”
The Padres (29-27) had only four hits and didn’t get their first until the sixth. Wil Myers led off the inning with a flare to the grass in short right, where a sliding DJ LeMahieu had the ball pop out of his glove.
The Yankees (36-19) battered NL Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Paddack, won for the 30th time in 40 games and took their eighth straight series. Next up are the Red Sox, third in the AL East, for a four-game series that starts Thursday night at the Stadium.
Paxton was uneven before hitting the IL, and complained of discomfort in the knee up until the very end of his stint there. He was very sharp, striking out six over his first three innings.
“It felt pretty good the last few days playing catch, I wasn’t really too worried about it,” Paxton said. “In the bullpen before the game, I was feeling for it a little bit, just to see how it felt, but it was good enough and it felt good to get out there.”
Paddack came in 4-2 with a 1.93 ERA in nine starts and had allowed only four homers. Through 1 1/3 innings he had allowed three, including back-to-back blasts by leadoff man LeMahieu and Voit in the first. The righthander hadn't allowed more than five hits in a game, but he allowed that many through nine batters. He was tagged for four runs and six hits in five innings.
Gio Urshela took Paddack deep in the second. Gleyber Torres added a homer off former Yankee Adam Warren, a two-run shot in the seventh that made it 7-0.
After Paxton struck out two in a 20-pitch first, the Yankees jumped on Paddack. LeMahieu fell in a 0-and-2 hole, then blasted a changeup to left-center for his fifth homer. Voit ripped a fastball to left-center for his 14th homer. It marked the 10th time in franchise history the Yankees went back-to-back to open a game. The previous time was last July 7 at Toronto, when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge did so. Urshela’s third homer made it 3-0, more than enough for Paxton and the bullpen.
“I didn’t really have any expectations,” Paxton said. “I was just going out there trying to do what I do. Make my pitches and give it all I had.”