NEW YORK -- James Paxton’s return to the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon couldn’t have gone much better than it did, considering the pitch-count limitations that manager Aaron Boone cited before the game. Paxton threw 66 pitches to the Padres over four innings and did not allow a hit, departing with the Yankees leading, 3-0, on three solo homers from DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit and Gio Urshela.
The Yankees tacked on a few more runs, including two on Gleyber Torres' 14th homer of the season, for a 7-0 victory at Yankee Stadium to close out the Interleague series.
“It was really good seeing him back out there and just pitching so well,” Boone said after the game. “Picked up right where he left off. Had good command and feel of the fastball, the slider-cutter was a really good pitch for him today and he was mostly real efficient. ... Four really strong innings by him to kind of set the tone for us today.”
Boone briefly considered sending Paxton back out for the fifth inning, but he was close to his pitch count. Paxton said after the game that he expects to be closer to 80 pitches in his next start, and then should be back to his normal workload for the start after that.
That’s good news for the Yankees’ rotation, which has been strong but could use the length, once Paxton gets there, as well as the reliability.
“When he’s out there, he can be a dominating force on the mound,” Boone said. “Hopefully now as we build him back up, [he's] a guy that not only can go out there and dominate, but a guy that hopefully we can look to to really pitch us deep into games, because that’s certainly what he’s capable of.”
Pitching for the first time since May 3 after spending time on the injured list with inflammation in his left knee, Paxton did not appear to labor at any point, striking out seven. He induced 17 swinging strikes, just three shy of his season high of 20, done three times. He threw at least 99 pitches in each of those three outings, though, and managed 17 swinging strikes on far fewer pitches than in Wednesday’s start.
The velocity of his four-seam fastball was 94.4 mph, below his season average of 95.6 mph, but it was what his fellow Yankees and opponents were raving about after the game.
“Unbelievable. He looked like he didn’t miss a month,” Voit said. “His fastball was effective up in the zone and he got guys chasing his slider down and in. We needed that, and it’s nice to have one of our big studs back, and for him to come out and do that was pretty awesome.”
Paxton, too, credited “some good high fastballs” for part of his success.
The Padres, on the receiving end, were aware of that fastball prowess, too.
“It was fastball with carry, more than anything,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “Then, when you're trying to catch up with the fastball, he got his offspeed down well today. You get those two things working well together, he becomes really tough.”
Paxton said his knee didn’t impede his pitching.
“It felt pretty good the last few days playing catch," Paxton said. "And I wasn’t really too worried about it. Obviously, in the bullpen before the game, I was feeling for it to see how it felt. It was good enough. And [it] felt good to get back out there.”
Paxton became the first Yankees starter to turn in a hitless outing of more than an inning since Domingo Germán went six hitless innings on May 6, 2018, against the Indians.