Yankees squander chances in loss to Blue Jays

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The Yankees fell to the Blue Jays 3-2 this afternoon at Rogers Centre in Toronto, which means the Orioles could move into a tie for first place in the American League East with a win over the Red Sox tonight. (Editor’s note: Baltimore won 4-3)

The Yankees had plenty of chances to blow this game open, but simply failed to take advantage. They loaded the bases against Ricky Romero in the first inning, but only managed a pair of sacrifice flies. The leadoff hitter reached base in each of the next four innings, but none of them came around to score.

Romero left the game after three innings with left knee discomfort, but Shawn Hill came up big by tossing three scoreless frames in his first appearance in the majors since 2010. He also got the victory.

Andy Pettitte allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings for his first loss since returning from a fractured ankle. The veteran southpaw was pulled with two runners on in the sixth before Adeiny Hechavarria delivered a go-ahead RBI double off Joba Chamberlain. Yan Gomes was caught napping around third base on the very same play, but the Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Brad Lincoln, Steve Delabar and Casey Janssen.

The Yankees will send Phil Hughes to the hill tomorrow while Henderson Alvarez pitches for the Jays. If the American League East ends in a tie, there will be a one-game playoff on Thursday in Baltimore.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.