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.