In a win or go home Game 5 of the ALCS, the Yankees handed the ball to veteran lefty James Paxton.
He got off to a rough start in the first inning, allowing one earned run over 23 pitches. George Springer singled to lead off the game, and quickly advanced to second after Gary Sanchez allowed a passed ball. It's just the eighth passed ball that Sanchez had allowed this season.
Springer then scored on a wild pitch by Paxton, but the lefty got Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel both to fly out and end the first inning.
"It was a lot of nerves, I was fired up, and I think I was overthrowing a little bit early," Paxton said. "They put some good swings on the ball, and I was missing my spots a little bit, walking a couple guys. Just had to battle through it."
Then in the second inning, Paxton slowly started to get in a groove.
After a leadoff walk to Carlos Correa, he struck out Yordan Alvarez, Robinson Chirinos and Springer and then had a 1-2-3 third inning. Paxton allowed a single to Correa to start the fourth inning, but then recorded another three straight outs -- including back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
He struck out Springer again to start the fifth inning, before walking Jose Altuve. Paxton then struck out Michael Brantley and got Bregman to ground to third for the force out at second base.
Through five innings, Paxton had thrown 97 pitches (63 strikes / 34 balls) and the Yankees started to warm up the bullpen. But he came out to pitch again in the sixth, and stayed in the zone.
After getting a line out from Gurriel and walking Correa, Paxton struck out Alvarez for the second time on the night. It looked like his night was over, as manager Aaron Boone came out for a mound visit. But Paxton remained in the game and got Chirinos to fly out to the left field warning track and end the sixth inning.
"I saw him (Boone) walking out and he didn't point to the dugout or to the bullpen," Paxton said. "Usually when he does that, he's going to have a conversation with me. And he gave me the chance to compete, keep on going, and I wanted it. When that ball went up, I was begging for it to stay in and it did. Got fired up, it was awesome."
Boone asked Paxton if he had anything left in the tank, which Paxton replied, "Yeah let's go, I want this."
Paxton became the first Yankee starter, not named Masahiro Tanaka, to pitch five full innings this postseason. He threw 112 pitches -- the most in a game by a Yankee this season -- and allowed just four hits while striking out nine over six innings of work. Paxton left the game with the Yankees leading the Astros 4-1, and was replaced by Tommy Kahnle to start the seventh inning.
"My goal was to go out there and give it everything I had for my team," Paxton said. "I wasn't ready to go home yet. So I wanted to go out and give my team everything I had, and just battle away."