The Yankees and manager Aaron Boone showed the faith they have in James Paxton by handing him the ball for the start in Game 1 of the ALDS Friday. While he wasn't the dominant force he was over the final two months of the regular season, he left the game in the fifth inning with the score tied at 3, before the Yankees broke the game open against the Twins bullpen.
Paxton, who was making his first career postseason appearance, acknowledged this wasn't just another start for him.
"I was just trying to lock in on what I was trying to do and execute pitches," Paxton said. "The adrenaline was so high I couldn't feel my body most of the night. I was just trying to grind it out. The guys did a great job behind me to put some runs on the board and the bullpen was great."
A grind, as Paxton put it, is an apt description of the left-hander's start. He allowed a solo homer to Jorge Polanco in the first inning and another to Nelson Cruz in the third. Boone tried to get his starter through the fifth, but Polanco's game-tying single ended the 30-year-old's night.
But Paxton wasn't discouraged by his outing and knows it's all about keeping your team in the game when it comes to October baseball.
"Of course I would have liked go deep into the game and save our bullpen guys, but I know it's different in the postseason,'' Paxton said.
Yankee Stadium -- no matter which iteration --- has always provided a raucous atmosphere in the playoffs, and Friday's game was no different.
"It was incredible," Aaron Judge said of the Game 1 crowd. "Every anthem you can barely hear it at the end. When you go out stretching, you're floating. Even when we went down early, the crowd was still in it. They were still on their feet with two strikes and everything and that's kind of what brought us back into the game."
But Judge, who called Paxton "the best left-handed pitcher in the game" prior to the start of the series, was impressed with the way he controlled his emotions in what was no doubt the biggest start of his career.
"He settled in,'' Judge said. "For his first postseason start, Yankee Stadium. That can be a lot, but he handled it."
Paxton, though, admitted his start was a bit of uncharted territory for him. Though he may have allowed it to get the best of him last night, he's confident he'll be better prepared for the moment his next time out.
"I didn't know how high my adrenaline would be,'' he said. "I think it will be better when I know more about pitching in this environment, which I do now.''