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Electric James Paxton sparks Yankees to eighth straight series victory

New York’s magical May continues as newcomers dominate the Padres.

MLB: San Diego Padres at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Paddack is the very definition of a rookie phenom. The Padres starter entered today’s game with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP, having already established himself as not only his team’s ace but also as one of the better pitchers in baseball. Of course, those numbers came with a significant asterisk: the 23 year old had yet to face the Yankees.

DJ LeMahieu — who grounded into a double play to end yesterday’s nail-biter — would make that clear right away, pulling Paddack’s very first pitch for a long home run. Just two pitches later, Luke Voit crushed another homer off the rookie, prompting a look of utter disbelief. It was the hardest-hit batted ball Paddack has allowed in his career.

The Bronx Bombers struck again in the second inning, starting with a third long ball off the bat of Gio Urshela. A pair of singles followed to give the Yankees five hits before they’d recorded their fifth out. For context, Paddack had not allowed more than five hits in any MLB start, while he’d held hitters to a .137 BA the first time through the order. To his credit, Paddack did not lose his composure in his Yankee Stadium debut, instead settling into a groove to allow just one more run in five innings of work. Nevertheless, the four earned runs he surrendered were a career high.

Paxton powers the pitching

Opposite Paddack, James Paxton was absolutely filthy in his return from the injured list. He tossed four no-hit innings with two walks and seven strikeouts, showing no signs of discomfort or rust whatsoever. True, his fastball didn’t touch the upper-90s like we’ve seen in the past; his average velocity of 94.4 mph was his lowest in a start this season. But it was plenty fast enough to overwhelm the talented Padres, who then looked downright silly against the Big Maple’s devastating curve.

Boone yanked Paxton after just 66 pitches, a threshold that will certainly increase in subsequent starts. The Yankees’ historically elite bullpen took it from there, as the combination of Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, Jonathan Holder, and Nestor Cortes Jr. combined for five scoreless frames to complete the shutout.

Green in particular looked very sharp: his fastball consistently touched 97 mph with his trademark late life, compared to the flat 94 mph heater that got hammered earlier this year. Cortes Jr. was the shakiest of the bunch; he loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth, giving the Padres a sliver of hope. Yet he would help himself by starting a key 1-2-3 double play before inducing a game-ending line out.

Winning — at a discount

The Yankees’ impressive victory and surprising season has been fueled by a number of relatively inexpensive offseason acquisitions: LeMahieu (.313 BA), Paxton (2.81 ERA), and Ottavino (1.37 ERA). Combined, that trio will earn $29.57 million in 2019, slightly less than the $30 million which the Padres owe Manny Machado every season for the next ten years. While the deep-pocketed Yankees’ decision not to sign Machado drew scrutiny at the time, the polarizing shortstop is hitting just .264 with 9 home runs thus far.

Meanwhile, Machado’s counterpart at short, Gleyber Torres, has been worth every penny of the league minimum salary he’ll make this year. He took former Yankee Adam Warren deep to prove it — his 14th homer already on the year. The usually reliable Warren has struggled this season to the tune of a 5.56 ERA, though he did make this Houdini catch to rob LeMahieu of a hit:

The Yankees will try to keep their momentum going tomorrow as they host the resurgent Red Sox, who have predictably recovered from their awful start to jump right back into the playoff picture. It’ll be ace Chris Sale, whose 1-6 record belies his recent return to excellence, against J.A. Happ, whom the Yankees acquired last season in part because of his success against Boston. Baseball’s best rivalry will be renewed tomorrow at 7:05 PM EDT.