Earlier today, in the open thread, I invited the Yankees and Red Sox to have an old-fashioned Sunday Night Baseball slugfest, the kind that goes close to four hours or so. They didn’t disappoint, turning in a thrilling, back-and-forth contest, complete with home runs galore. The Yankees came out ahead, snagging a 9-7 victory, finishing off a sweep of the diminished Boston club.
And, let me tell you, it felt gooooooood.
Party like It’s 2017
Remember when people started treating Aaron Judge like a merely good hitter? Heck, FOX Sports North just proclaimed Max Kepler a better player. That’s enough of that, because Judge has reestablished himself as the league’s premiere power hitter.
In the bottom of the second, with two on and two out, Judge took Matt Hall deep for a three-run homer. He crushed an 88.8 mph fastball, sending it 419 feet into left field. The ball had a 108 mph exit velocity!
Judge wanted more, though, and he got it in a big way in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Mike Tauchman and DJ LeMahieu played a little small ball to tie the game, Judge took two balls from Matt Barnes, showing a good batting eye. Then he did this:
Crushed. 468 feet. Absurd.
That two-run shot gave the Yankees the lead, paving the way for Zack Britton to close the door on the sweep.
This also marks the fifth-consecutive game in which Judge has hit a home run. That’s the longest streak by a Yankees batter since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Good company, if you ask me. A healthy Judge, terrorizing pitchers and raining baseballs down onto bleachers. It feels like 2017 again when he gets in the batter’s box, and for that I am grateful.
We Have a Paxton Problem
For the second consecutive start, Paxton failed to throw his fastball with any sort of power. The worries came early, when he started the game with a 91 mph fourseamer. He made quick work of Kevin Pillar and Rafael Devers, but then he served up a double to J.D. Martinez, bringing Xander Bogaerts to the plate. Paxton left a flat, 90.5 mph fastball up and over the plate, and Bogaerts teed off, driving it to right center for a two-run homer.
Big Maple settled down and tossed a scoreless second, but his third inning of work proved disastrous. Three runs scored on four hits (including an RBI single by Bogaerts) and some wonky outfield defense, but more on that later. The troubling part is that he allowed so much contact—three singles a double—off his fastball and cutter. He didn’t miss bats, quite the problem for a strikeout pitcher.
All told, Paxton allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits across three innings. I’m not worried about the results. The Red Sox still have a deep lineup, and they can score runs off the best of them. But the process, that’s what troubles me with Paxton. He averaged 91.5 mph on the fourseamer, maxing out at 92.9 mph. Those readings are even worse than his season debut, when his heater averaged 92.4 mph.
One outing with diminished stuff? That’s concerning, maybe even worrying. Two outings? That’s worth sounding the alarm bells. A third just might force the Yankees to consider some sort of intervention to get Paxton straightened out.
The Yankees had a strange time in the outfield on Sunday night. Aaron Hicks, in particular, struggled defensively. In the first inning, he took an odd route on a Martinez double. He hit the ball hard (100.8 mph exit velocity), and the play had a .720 xBA, so it wasn’t an easy out to make, but Hicks’ path to the wall probably made you scratch your head.
The center fielder followed that up with a less excusable misplay in the third inning, when Pillar hit a ground-rule double. Hicks just pulled up on an extremely catchable pull and let it drop on to the warning track before bouncing out of play. The ESPN camera caught an exasperated Paxton on the mound, and rightfully so, as that hit had a .170 xBA. Hicks knows that’s a play he can make, and a play he has to make. I don’t have any concerns with him playing center, he’s good fielder who just had a bad night.
Miguel Andujar, on the other hand, I’m not so sure about him playing left field, or anywhere defensively for that matter. The 25-year-old was tested in the third inning, when Bogaerts laced a single into left. Andujar let the ball get behind him, allowing Rafael Devers to score from first. With Hicks, you know he wasn’t on his A-game. I’m afraid that this is Andujar playing as best he could, and in that case, ouch.
Mike King replaced Paxton in the fourth inning, and he tossed 3.2 solid innings of work. King allowed two runs on a pair of solo shots off the bats of Bogaerts in the fifth (getting real tired of him, you guys) and Devers in the seventh. That second one didn’t even come on a bad pitch! Devers just beat him to it.
Hard to blame King for that. Maybe the Yankees should have gone to Adam Ottavino earlier, but King looked good enough to stay in the game. Unfortunately that put the Red Sox ahead, 6-5.
Bogaerts went 4-for-4 on the night with two home runs and a double, and wow, I will not miss him. He hit Paxton, King, and Ottavino hard. Go beat up the Rays’ pitching staff, please.
And, lastly, when multiplied by 2.7 games, the Yankees’ 7-1 record translates to 18.9-2.7. How about that for a hot start?
The Yankees will host the Phillies tomorrow, a makeup game of the July 29th postponement. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM, and it will feature Gerrit Cole squaring off against Jake Arrieta.