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Yankees, behind another strong start from James Paxton, defeat Blue Jays

Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton pumps his fist

Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton pumps his fist after the top of the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Of all the questions surrounding the Yankees' rotation plans for the postseason, almost none of them involve James Paxton.

Just send him to the mound in Game 1 or 2 of the American League Division Series and let him go.

The lefthander won for the 10th straight start Saturday afternoon as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 7-2, in front of 43,602 at the Stadium. “Pax went out and set the tone for us,” Aaron Boone said. 

Paxton (15-6, 3.73)  allowed one run,  three hits and no walks in six innings, striking out seven. The only run he gave up was unearned. In his last 10 starts, he has a 2.25 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP and has held hitters to a .167 batting average, striking out 68 in 60 innings. He is the first pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2011 to win 10 straight starts.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a stretch quite this long,” said Paxton, who combined with Jonathan Loaisiga and Chad Green to strike out 15. “Had some good stretches in the past, but this is probably the longest stretch that I’ve had in my career so far.”

Just in time for October baseball.

“You definitely think about it because it is coming, it’s around the corner,” said Paxton, who again had stellar command of his fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter. “But I’m focusing on one game at a time and I’ll be the same in the postseason.”

Mike Ford had three of the Yankees' 11 hits and drove in two runs, as did Giancarlo Stanton and Kyle Higashioka. Stanton had a solo homer and an RBI double, one of five doubles by the Yankees.

The victory allowed the Yankees (101-55) to move within a half-game of the Astros (101-54), who lost to the Angels on Saturday night, for the best record in the majors and home-field advantage.

Boone, who spoke before the game of the “balance” he has to strike between chasing down the Astros and making sure his team is healthy for October, missed much of the afternoon as the Yankees’ season-long difficulties with umpires continued.

Boone was ejected for the fifth time this season and ninth time in two seasons as Yankees manager, tossed after the bottom of the first inning by third base umpire Joe West. Hitting coach Marcus Thames was ejected by plate umpire Jeremie Rehak during the same sequence.

There still was some lingering unhappiness in the dugout about a 3-and-1 pitch to Brett Gardner that West called a strike when the Yankees were trying to rally in the ninth inning of Friday night's 4-3 loss.

In the bottom of the first Saturday, Stanton said something to Rehak after taking a 0-and-1 pitch for a called strike that appeared low, and the pitch prompted some yelling from Boone and others. Stanton had a longer chat with Rehak after being called out on a similarly placed 1-and-2 pitch. West soon ejected Boone and Rehak tossed Thames within about 30 seconds of each other.

“I was pretty upset with a couple of the calls with ‘G’ and was letting him [Rehak] know,” Boone said. “Joe came down the line … Whether it was warranted or not, I got tossed there.”

The Blue Jays (63-92) took a 1-0 lead in the third on an RBI single by Jonathan Davis that was set up by Didi Gregorius' error, but the Yankees took the lead  for good  in the fourth.

Aaron Judge led off with a double and one out later, Stanton lined an RBI double on one short hop off the left-centerfield wall. With two outs, Ford hit a soft liner to center off the end of the bat for an RBI single and a 2-1 lead.

Stanton led off a four-run sixth with a 420-foot homer into the bleachers in left-center, and  back-to-back one-out doubles to left by Ford and Clint Frazier gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead. After a single by Tyler Wade, Higashioka won a nine-pitch at-bat by grounding a two-run single through the open right side of the infield, and Ford’s RBI single in the seventh made it 7-1.

“I feel my at-bats have been pretty good,” said Stanton, 3-for-9 with two doubles and a homer since coming off the injured list on  Wednesday. “The last game I played, they weren’t so good, but just working off of better at-bats as I go along.”

Of his second homer of the season in his 12th game, Stanton laughed.

“Gotta relearn how to jog around the bases a little bit.” 


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