The New York Yankees will spend part of Saturday awaiting word on the condition of Gleyber Torres’ lower legs. They hope to spend the other part of the day watching James Paxton continue his turnaround on the mound.
After a slow start, Paxton is on quite a roll and will attempt to win his 10th straight when the Yankees continue a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees (100-55) are 3-4 in their last seven games after opening the series with a 4-3 loss when Tommy Kahnle gave up a two-run homer to Justin Smoak in the seventh inning. The Yankees lost the lead after Torres was removed with what manager Aaron Boone said was a little weakness in his lower legs that will require precautionary tests.
“We’ll see,” Boone said. “Think he’ll be OK.”
Paxton (14-6, 3.88 ERA) was 5-6 with a 4.72 ERA in first 18 starts after getting shelled for seven runs at Boston on July 26. Since then, he is 9-0 with a 2.50 ERA.
Paxton is the first Yankee to win nine straight starts since Mike Mussina won his last two starts in 2002 and his first seven to start 2003. The last Yankee to win nine straight starts in the same season was Ron Guidry, who won 11 in a row in 1979 — a year after going 25-3.
Paxton also is the first Yankee since 1940 to win at least eight straight starts in his first season with the team. He surpassed John Candelaria (1988), Mike Torrez (1977), Dock Ellis (1976) and Bobby Shantz (1957), who each won seven straight starts in their initial seasons with the Yankees.
“We knew he was capable of this,” Boone said after Paxton’s last home start on Sept. 3 against Texas. “There’s always some adjustment to a new team, new coaches, new environment, new catching, all of it. He went through that but now I feel like he really understands what he’s going to do in a game.”
Another cause of the turnaround for Paxton can be attributed to increasing his curveball usage to 18.4 percent this season. Hitters are hitting .179 against the pitch and Paxton threw it 38 times last Saturday in Toronto when he held the Blue Jays to one run on three hits in five innings during a 13-3 win.
Paxton is 4-3 with a 5.07 ERA in nine career starts against Toronto.
Toronto (63-91) has not lost since it faced Paxton a week ago and its five-game winning streak matches a season best. The Blue Jays also are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning or later in each of their last four wins.
“They want to win every day and that’s awesome. Nobody wants to go home, they want to win and winning in this place — because I’ve been here in this division for a long time — it’s tough and to win a nail biter like that today it was good,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said.
The Blue Jays will likely be without rookie infielder Bo Bichette for a second straight game since he is in the concussion protocol. Bichette was hit in the helmet by a pitch Thursday in Baltimore and could miss the rest of the series.
T.J. Zeuch is expected to make his fourth career appearance and it could be after Toronto uses an opener. Zeuch is 1-0 with a 4.61 ERA so far and is facing the Yankees for the second straight time after allowing two runs in 5 1/3 relief innings for his first career win on Sunday.
–Field Level Media