The times they are a’changing for James Paxton.
The lefthander picked up his third straight win Monday, tossing six innings of five-hit, three-run ball in the Yankees’ 8-5 victory over the Orioles in Game 1 of a doubleheader at the Stadium, and credited the expanded use of a changeup for his success on the mound.
“It’s something that we’ve been working on in the bullpen. I threw, I think, four of them last game and knew it was a pitch we could use,” said Paxton, who also walked two and struck out seven. “So, I told Gary [Sanchez] to mix it in when he thought there were good times and he called it a few times today. It worked out pretty well.”
Paxton added that he’s still focusing on fastball first, but said he hopes adding in the changeup occasionally will keep opposing batters on their toes.
“I throw a lot of fastballs and just to have something that comes out that looks like the fastball that’s slower, as long as I keep my arm speed with it, I think it can be a very useful pitch for me,” he said.
Paxton’s ability to mix up pitches down the stretch, and the Yankees’ ability to hit home runs, helped him settle down after another shaky first inning. He allowed a leadoff single from Hanser Alberto and Renato Nunez’s sac fly gave the Orioles a quick 1-0 lead.
This season, Paxton has given up 25 earned runs in the first inning.
“I gave up that run in the first inning and then got those runs right back, right away with the Didi [Gregorius] homer, so that was huge,” Paxton said. “They were playing good defense and scoring runs.”
Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander both homered off Paxton with solo shots on 0-2 counts in the third and sixth inning.
Paxton called Mancini’s at bat “an impressive piece of hitting,” saying, “I threw the pitch I wanted to throw, I got it to where I wanted to get it and he still put barrel on it."
Despite the runs, manager Aaron Boone said he was pleased with Paxton’s outing, especially when Baltimore batters consistently fouled off pitches early in the game.
“I had someone go down and check and I think through the first seven hitters, they had 18 foul balls and I know a bunch of them were pretty good two-strike pitches,” Boone said. “So, it made him work a little harder, but I thought stuff-wise, he was really good.”
It’s the first time Paxton has won three consecutive starts since a seven-start streak while he was with Seattle in 2017. It was also his sixth quality start in his last eight turns, and the twelfth time this season he’s recorded at least seven strikeouts.
That’s something Paxton hopes doesn’t change any time soon.
“I thought it was good today,” he said. “That last home run that I gave up, I just didn’t get the curveball to the dirt where I wanted to. But overall I thought I threw the ball pretty well.”