This was the James Paxton the Yankees thought they were getting when they traded for the 30-year-old southpaw this winter.
After two subpar outings, the Yankees left-hander looked like an ace against the Red Sox on Tuesday night, tossing eight shutout innings and allowing just two hits while striking out 12 in the Yankees' 8-0 victory at Yankee Stadium.
His fastball reached 99 mph in the eighth inning as he became the first Yankees pitcher with at least 12 strikeouts and two hits or fewer against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in franchise history.
The left-hander credited his success to a change he made in his mechanics from his previous starts.
"I was working with my mechanics and found the delivery I wanted to find and just allowed my arm to come through and was being really aggressive," he said after the game.
Paxton told reporters on Sunday that he recognized he was tipping pitches in his last start against the Astros, in which he allowed five runs in four innings, and that Yankees special advisor Carlos Beltran pointed it out to him.
But the mechanical change was something he noticed when watching video of himself the other day.
"I thought, 'that looked different. What's different about that?'" he said. "I just kinda thought about it, saw the differences between a couple of starts I had against Boston in previous years and decided that this delivery I saw was the one I wanted to repeat and that's when I'm at my best."
It could not have come at a better time, not just for Paxton, but the Yankees, too. The Bombers entered Tuesday's game having lost five of their last six games and with a struggling Red Sox team in town it was paramount for Paxton and the Yankees to come up big.
"It's a big deal because it's against Boston, especially being here, we want to beat Boston every time. It's a big rivalry," Paxton said. "It's a big start for me, just to get my feet under me and show myself I can be here doing this."
Paxton's only bit of trouble came in the fourth inning after the Yankees had taken a 2-0 lead against Chris Sale.
He issued a leadoff walk to Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts skied a ball to right field that Aaron Judge was unable to catch, but the ball hit the very top of the wall and resulted in a double with Betts on third and nobody out.
Paxton then got J.D. Martinez and Steve Pearce to both fly out to shallow right field and then he struck out Mitch Moreland with a fastball on the outside corner to escape the jam, barking out a "Let's go" along with a fist pump as he walked off the mound.
"That was a big spot in the game," Paxton said. "We were ahead of them but I didn't want to let them back in at all. I feel like putting a zero up right there is big for the team and allowed us to keep going on after that."