Aaron Boone raised more than a few eyebrows among Yankees fans after James Paxton’s start the previous Friday in Boston.
“I thought stuff-wise he was electric, and you saw in and out of dominance,” Boone said after a loss in which Paxton struck out nine but allowed four home runs in four innings.
Seven days later, there was no room for debate about his outing.
After two straight rough starts, Paxton was mostly terrific in his six innings Friday night as the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 4-2, in front of a sellout crowd of 46,932 at the Stadium.
Gleyber Torres’ first-inning grand slam quickly erased the two-run homer by J.D. Martinez off Paxton in the first. That helped the AL East-leading Yankees (69-39) move 7 1⁄2 games ahead of the idle Rays and 11 1⁄2 games ahead of the Red Sox (59-52), who had only three hits and three walks in taking their fifth straight loss.
Paxton (6-6, 4.61), as has been his wont this season, allowed that first-inning homer but then settled down against a Red Sox team that totaled 44 runs and hit 11 homers in taking three of four from the Yankees last weekend at Fenway Park.
Paxton gave up two runs, two hits and three walks Friday, striking out six. Tommy Kahnle struck out one in a scoreless seventh, Zack Britton pitched a perfect eighth and Aroldis Chapman struck out one in a perfect ninth for his 28th save in 33 chances.
First innings have been an issue all season for Paxton, who has an 11.37 ERA in the opening inning this season and a 2.93 ERA in all other innings. He has allowed 11 home runs in 19 first innings and seven in his other 76 2⁄3 innings.
Paxton, who allowed homers by Mookie Betts and Martinez in the first inning of the previous Friday’s start, struck out Betts and Rafael Devers to start Friday’s opening inning. But a walk to Xander Bogaerts on a 3-and-2 pitch brought up Martinez, who lined an 0-and-1 cutter to left for his 24th homer and a 2-0 lead.
It marked the fourth straight game in which Paxton allowed a first-inning home run.
The Yankees rebounded against lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, who allowed five hits and six walks and struck out eight in 6 2⁄3 innings.
DJ LeMahieu, back in the lineup after missing four games with groin soreness, led off the bottom of the first with a hard single to left-center, the first of his two hits. Aaron Judge and Edwin Encarnacion walked to load the bases with none out.
Aaron Hicks extended his current slump to 1-for-22 by fouling out to first, but Torres, himself in a 3-for-22 slide, hit his second grand slam of the season, lasering a first-pitch fastball 384 feet to left to make it 4-2.
The blast gave Torres 21 homers and improved him to 10-for-24 with 25 RBIs for his career with the bases loaded.
Paxton provided a shutdown second inning, striking out the side on 14 pitches. He got Sam Travis and Michael Chavis swinging at cutters before Christian Vazquez missed badly on a 97-mph fastball.
Paxton retired eight straight after the homer by Martinez, who broke the streak when he walked with one out in the fourth.
Andrew Benintendi followed with a single to right, but Paxton stopped things there, getting Travis to fly to left and Chavis to ground to second.