Last year, James Paxton's fastball averaged around 95 mph and topped out at 99, but so far this year, a drop-off in velocity is a storyline for the New York Yankees.
The Yankees believe that velocity still exists, and Paxton hopes to validate that belief Saturday night when he starts against theBoston Red Sox in the second game of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.
Paxton will be taking the mound after the Yankees improved to 7-0 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees opened the series with a 10-3 win Friday when Gleyber Torres had four hits, Mike Tauchman drove in four runs and Gary Sanchez homered for the second straight game.
Paxton is 0-1 with a 7.84 ERA, and his four-seam fastball is averaging 92.1 mph, down from the 95.4 mph when he was a 15-game winner last season. He is three starts into a season that followed back surgery in February, and first-year pitching coach Matt Blake is confident the velocity will return.
"Everything that we've seen so far has led us to believe that that is still in there," Blake said Wednesday. "Obviously, any time you have a surgery on your back, there's going to be some time to get your feet underneath you and then trust it again."
Paxton is coming off his most encouraging outing after he allowed eight runs (six earned) on 12 hits in four innings over his first two starts. On Sunday, he allowed three runs on four hits in 6 1/3 innings but also struck out 11 in an 87-pitch outing at Tampa Bay.
"We're still working on things, tinkering on things," Paxton said Friday. "I feel like we're going in the right direction."
Paxton is 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA in nine career starts against the Red Sox, though he allowed five runs (three earned) to them on Aug. 2.
The Red Sox enter on a five-game losing streak and with seven losses in their past 10 games. Boston also is on a seven-game losing streak against the Yankees and is 1-12 in its past 13 games at the Bronx since the start of last season.
"Obviously you can't control what's happened already. Those games are over with," Boston's Xander Bogaerts said. "Just try to control what we have going forward. Just try to go out there and have some fun. I know it's been a little hard for us on that part, but we've just got to go out there and have fun and play like we're having fun."
Boston's pitching staff, which has allowed 52 runs in the last five games, hopes Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 4.09 ERA) can produce an effective outing. He is coming off his first win of the season, when he allowed three runs and struck out 10 in six innings during a 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
Eovaldi is 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA in eight appearances, including five starts, against the Yankees, whom he pitched for in 2015 and 2016.
Including starts against the Mets and in the 2018 postseason, Eovaldi also owns a 0.87 ERA and a .178 opponent's batting average in his past five starts in New York.
--Field Level Media