Yankees hurler James Paxton is off to a red-hot start this season, one that might even be called historic. The southpaw pitched his way to a 2-2 record last week, firing eight scoreless innings of two-hit, 12-strikeout ball in an impressive 8-0 victory over the Red Sox. On Sunday, he racked up another 12 strikeouts in a dominant showing against the Royals — not only reinforcing the Yankees’ five-run lead, but matching a franchise record that has gone unchallenged since 1998.
After striking out three batters over the first two innings, Paxton hit his stride in the third. He expended 12 pitches to strike out the side, getting Martín Maldonado on a called strike and inducing swinging strikes from Billy Hamilton and Whit Merrifield to end the inning. In the fourth, he allowed a leadoff single and stolen base to Adalberto Mondesi, then proceeded to strike out the side again. By the time he handed the ball over to Tommy Kahnle in the seventh, the Royals had managed to get on base just four times and stranded both of the runners they had in scoring position.
According to MLB Stats, Paxton’s feat — 12 strikeouts in consecutive outings — had not been recorded by a Yankees pitcher since David Cone decimated the Marlins and Indians during back-to-back performances in the summer of 1998. The 30-year-old lefty is also one of just three major-league pitchers to pitch consecutive starts with 12 strikeouts, one (or fewer) walk, and zero earned runs, and the first to do so since Clayton Kershaw in 2015. And, while it certainly seems improbable, he might even be the first to complete the feat in three straight starts when he faces the Giants next weekend, too.
The Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.
Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:
I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.
In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.
“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”
Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.
For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.