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James Paxton (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Baseball

James Paxton goes from “bust” to playoff game 1 starter for Yankees

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced the three pitchers that would make up his clubs starting rotation for the American League Division Series which begins Friday against the Minnesota Twins. Take the ball for Game 1 is first year Yankee, James Paxton.

It’s been an up and down season for Paxton.

Back in November of last year, the Yankees sent highly regarded pitching prospect Justus Sheffield, right-hander Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Paxton, the Canadian-born lefty. After a breakout season in 2017, Paxton went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 28 starts in 2018. The Yankees saw Paxton as a top of the rotation guy with ace potential.

Early in the season, many, including Yankees fans had labeled Paxton a “bust” as he struggled to find consistency. In six starts through March/April, Paxton went 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA, not horrible numbers by any means.

In May, Paxton threw just seven innings in two games, but did not allow a run.

Things went down hill after that. Paxton had a winning record of 2-1 in June but his ERA sky-rocketed. He held a 7.15 ERA in five games pitched in June. July was no better as Paxton went 0-3 with a 5.58 ERA through five starts. This is when the “busts” chatter hit it’s highest level.

Once August hit, Paxton’s season took a turn. In six starts, Paxton went 6-0 with a 3.57 ERA, throwing 35.1 innings and striking out 39 opposing batters. Paxton became the ace the Yankees felt they were getting when they acquired him and talk began about the lefty leading the rotation once playoff time came around.

It got even better in September. Paxton went 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA in the month of September and with Masahiro Tanaka’s inconsistency and Luis Severino still working himself back from injury, the lefty firmly planted himself as the team’s ace.

Opponents hit .330 and .336 against Paxton in June and July, respectively. As he turned his season around beginning in August and continuing into September, opponents hit just .192 and .156 respectively.

Paxton has only faced the Twins once this season and pitched three innings, giving up two runs (one earned). Now the stakes are much higher and the Yankees are counting on the hot streak for Paxton to continue. The struggles of early summer seem so long ago and Paxton is now the ace the Yankees will count on to get the series momentum on their side.

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