The New York Yankees were staring down a daunting task. With their backs against the wall, their hopes of reaching the World Series lie in their ability to overcome a 3-1 deficit to the Houston Astros. Not only that, they must defeat Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the likely top-two finishers in the AL Cy Young award voting this season. The Yankees deployed James Paxton to battle Verlander Friday night in Game Five.
James Paxton has struggled in his previous two starts in this postseason, which were the only two of his career. In those two starts, he had allowed four earned runs in seven innings. Additionally, he failed to get out of the third inning of Game Two as the Yankees lost in 11 innings.
Paxton’s start was crucial for the Yankees, who had been relying extensively on their bullpen all October. The tentative plan is to further rely on the bullpen for Game Six. Because of the decision to make the game a bullpen day, Paxton needed to not only be effective, but give length.
He did just that, throwing over 100 pitches and utilizing his arsenal better than he did in Game Two. This is seen by a decrease in his ability to better mix his pitches compared to his previous start.
“It was my best best performance in a big situation for sure,” Paxton said. “This is the postseason. I’ve had better games this season, but as far as moments, this is definitely the biggest game for me, and I didn’t do it alone.”
In Game Two, Paxton threw exclusively his fastball while mixing in his curveball. Once again, he relied heavily on his fastball, but he managed to mix in more than just his curveball.
He mixed in more cutters to compliment his four-seam fastball, which he was effectively elevating throughout the night. When it came to secondary pitches, Paxton relied less on his curveball while resorting to more sliders and changeups, two pitches that he did not throw once in Game Two.
The final line for James Paxton was six innings pitched, only allowing one run. He did allow four hits and four walks, but he was able to neutralize them with nine strikeouts.
“We needed a huge start from him, and he came through in a huge way,” DJ LeMahieu said.
JAMES PAXTON – GAME 5 ALCS 🔥🔥🔥
9 K pic.twitter.com/RXaRkzFbkJ
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) October 19, 2019
Heading Back To Houston
Paxton’s start helped the Yankees survive one more day as they fly to Houston for Game Six on Saturday. While it was important that Paxton pitch deep into the game tonight, the extent of the impact it will have on the pitching staff may get overlooked.
Aaron Boone was able to avoid using Chad Green, who will likely play a big role on Saturday. Aside from allowing a three-run home run to Carlos Correa in Game Four, Green has been exceptional during the postseason. In five-and-two-thirds innings pitched combined in the ALDS and ALCS, Green has faced 21 batters and only four have reached base.
Therefore it was just as imperative for Paxton to put Boone in a situation where he could keep Green out of the game and ready to go on Saturday. Paxton did just that. Now Green and J.A. Happ, Jonathan Loaisiga, or whomever Boone plans to use were able to save bullets and so that they will be ready to follow Paxton’s performance and keep the Yankees season alive.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images