James Paxton went to the mound in the fifth inning of his first postseason start on Friday night with a one-run lead. He also went out with a short leash typical for this time of year.
Paxton, who had thrown only 60 pitches to the Twins, started the fifth with Adam Ottavino warming in the bullpen.
“I’m going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can, and when they take the ball away, they take the ball away,” Paxton said on the eve of ALDS Game 1, a 10-4 Yankees win. “I’ve watched postseason games before, and it does seem like the leash is shorter, especially with the bullpen that we have. But I’m not going to concern myself.”
Manager Aaron Boone was criticized for leaving in Luis Severino and CC Sabathia too long in Games 3 and 4 of last season’s four-game ALDS loss to the Red Sox.
Boone waited this time until Paxton allowed the tying run to score before bringing in Ottavino. Switch hitter Jorge Polanco lined a two-out single to left on the ninth pitch of his at-bat and Paxton’s 86th and final pitch to tie the score at 3.
Then Boone brought in Ottavino, who walked Nelson Cruz.
“I felt good about him going through Polanco and Polanco had a great night,’’ Boone said. “We’ll keep him on that side [righthanded] preferably. He had a great night and a great at-bat against him. But I felt like Pax was pretty strong to that point and had Otto obviously ready for Cruz. But I felt good about the matchup there.”
Tommy Kahnle took over and got Eddie Rosario to fly out to center to end the inning and ensure a no-decision for Paxton, who allowed three runs and five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts.
“It was a lot of adrenaline, super-intense out there. A lot of fun. It was crazy,’’ Paxton said. “I was trying to execute pitches. The energy was so high, I couldn’t feel my body most of the night. I was trying to grind it out. The guys did a great job behind me and the bullpen was great.’’
The Twins, who hit an MLB-record 307 home runs (one more than the Yankees), hit two solo shots off Paxton.
He said of Minnesota, “They’re really good. They put together some really good at-bats against me . . . You know, two home runs.
“With this confidence, our team, we’re really confident in what we can accomplish so I just tried to limit the damage as much as I can against these guys because I know we’re going to score some runs.’’
After Paxton struck out leadoff man Mitch Garver in the first, Polanco lined a homer to left to temporarily quiet the Yankee Stadium crowd.
In the second, Paxton allowed a one-out double by Marwin Gonzalez and then watched in disbelief as DJ LeMahieu dropped C.J. Cron’s pop-up to first for an error.
Gonzalez held second, and Paxton got out of the inning when Luis Arraez hit into a double play. But Cruz homered in the third to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.