ARLINGTON, Texas — Uh-oh.
For Yankees fans, that pretty much sums it up.
James Paxton, who emerged as the staff ace in the second half of the season and brought a 10-game winning streak into the weekend, left Friday night’s start against the Rangers after one inning.
The Yankees, who hit six homers in their 14-7 victory, announced that Paxton had been removed for precautionary reasons because of a “tight left glute,’’ though after the game, all involved downplayed the severity.
“Just when I was warming up, I felt a little bit of tightness there, a little discomfort,” said Paxton, the presumed ALDS Game 1 or 2 starter against the Twins next weekend. “I think I could have kept going, but they wanted to play it safe and just have me completely rested for what comes next.”
Aaron Boone said he could have sent Paxton back out for the second but wanted to take the “super-safe” route. That’s understandable, given the record 30 players the Yankees have sent to the injured list this season, Paxton included.
“I really don’t think it’s anything big at all,” Boone said. “He kind of wanted to go back out there and I normally would have let him . . . I didn’t want to mess with anything. I do think it’s kind of a minor deal.”
Paxton entered the game 15-6 with a 3.73 ERA, including 10-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his streak.
After Paxton’s departure, six relievers combined to allow one run in seven innings before Chance Adams gave up four runs in one-third of an inning in the ninth.
The Yankees (103-57), who had 18 hits, got home runs from Giancarlo Stanton, Cameron Maybin, Brett Gardner, Gio Urshela, Mike Ford and Austin Romine, which gave them 305 homers this season and pushed them past the Twins (303) for the 2019 lead and the MLB record. Minnesota homered twice in its rain-shortened victory in Kansas City. The Yankees set the single-season homer record last year with 267, a number both clubs blew past weeks ago.
“We’re definitely keeping track,” said DJ LeMahieu, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, which allowed him to reach the 100-RBI plateau for the first time in his career despite batting leadoff for most of the season. “It’s a pretty dangerous lineup.”
The Astros clinched the top seed in the American League playoffs later Friday night by earning their 105th win. They will face the winner of the wild card game in the ALDS.
Stanton put the Yankees on the scoreboard — and accounted for their 300th homer — with one out in the first, crushing a hanging 2-and-1 curveball by lefthander Joe Palumbo. It improved him to 5-for-19 with two homers since returning from the IL Sept. 18. He had three RBIs Friday and reached base all five times he came up.
LeMahieu had a three-run double in the seventh, giving him 102 RBIs — 36 more than his previous career high of 66 in 2016 with the Rockies. That gave the Yankees an 11-2 lead. LeMahieu is 10-for-15 with 24 RBIs with the bases loaded this season.
“Just an unbelievable hitter,” Stanton said of LeMahieu, now hitting .331. “We all love watching him hit.”
LeMahieu, perhaps the quietest player in the clubhouse, gave a small smile in answering a question about reaching 100 RBIs. “I guess my whole career I’ve been pretty envious of guys that can drive in 100,” he said. “I guess that means you’re really helping the team, so it’s a good feeling for sure.”