Shade of Fail

Bronx, N.Y., May 29, 2019; Yankees 7, San Diego 0 — With the rubber game of their three-game series against visiting San Diego coming Wednesday afternoon, the Yanks were slated to face young phenom Chris Paddock. That they were getting James Paxton back from the IL was a huge plus, but there was some concern that their veteran southpaw had not pitched in a while due to a balky knee. Paddock came in third in era in the NL, first in batting average and on base percentage against, and second in slugging percentage. What were nervous Yankee fans to do, given that the team’s streak of series won stood at 12 of the last 13?

A doctor’s advice may have been something like, “Take two [pick something] and call me in the morning,” and two “pills” calmed some nerves early. Paxton started — and stayed — well, striking out the first two Padres hitters with seven pitches, then working around a walk of Manny Machado. At 1:20, Paddock poured in a 93-mph fastball to DJ LeMahieu, then another, but DJ turned on the third and lifted a deep fly to left for a home run. Two pitches later, DH Luke Voit cracked one to left center. It got there more quickly, but the effect was the same: 2-0 Yankees.

Paddock, pounding strikes (13 of 14 first-inning pitches), escaped with no further damage, but following a 1-2-3 frame from Paxton (with Gleyber Torres chipping in a nice play on an Ian Kinsler popup), Chris struck out Clint Frazier to start the home second. But then Gio Urshela joined the homer-to-left party, 3-0 Yankees. Paxton was dealing, the Bombers were bombing, and all was well in the Bronx.

Paxton notched his seventh K in the fourth and, apparently on a pitch count, was relieved by Chad Green to start the fifth having allowed nothing but two walks. Green got though the fifth around a Torres error, and a fabulous play from Urshela at third. The Yanks started tacking on runs, with Brett Gardner chipping in with a sac fly in the bottom of the fifth once San Diego made a wrong fielder’s choice (safe at both second and first) on a Voit grounder. And then the Padres broke up a combo no-hitter off Adam Ottavino in the sixth when LeMahieu couldn’t hold onto Wil Myers’s floater after a long run into short right. But nothing came of it, and the Yanks scored one in the sixth on Cameron Maybin’s single, two steals, and a throwing error. Finally, Torres made it 7-0 with a seventh-inning homer following a rare Voit triple when center fielder Manuel Margot missed a shoestring try.

Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth (earning the “W” for his trouble), and the lone question remaining was apparently whether or not the home team could complete the shutout. And lefty Nestor Cortes, Jr., seemed to say no by loading the bases with no one out on a walk and two singles. But Cortes pounced on a Ty France bouncer to the box, turning it into a 1-2-3 double play. A soft liner to Thairo Estrada, subbing for Torres at short, finished the whitewash in a nifty 2:39, shortly before the feared rains arrived in the Bronx.

It was instant Yankee offense that got the Yankee crowd ready for another series win in the first. But if forced to choose, I would anoint the returned Mr. Paxton as first star of this one. Not only did he throw no-hit ball with seven strike outs through four; he coaxed 16 swings and misses on a killer slider and plus heat in just 65 pitches. Welcome back, Big Maple, a fanbase still short of starting pitchers is thrilled to have you.

On the other hand, as alluded to earlier, Mr. Paddock threw just one ball off the plate in the two-run first. And his strikes/balls ratio stood at 20/3 when Urshela made it 3-0 in the second. Pitching is not just about throwing lots of strikes. On this day in 1945, Gary Brooker, keyboardist of rock group Procul Harum, was born. Their memorable hit, on many playlists to this day, was Whiter Shade of Pale. On Wednesday afternoon, Chris Paddock got to experience,

A Shade of Fail