James Paxton believed that he had returned to full strength, less than six months removed from back surgery, though the Yankees left-hander cautioned that he was still hoping to find a few more ticks of velocity as he prepared for his season debut.
Absent that extra sizzle on his fastball, Paxton struggled to put away the defending World Series champions, recording only three outs as the Yankees absorbed a 9-2 loss to the Nationals on Saturday in Washington.
Paxton pitched around a two-out Starlin Castro triple in the first inning, but three singles loaded the bases with none out in the second inning. Victor Robles lashed a two-run double down the left-field line, and Paxton was lifted one batter later, having thrown 29 of his 41 pitches for strikes.
In early February, Paxton underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy during which a herniated disk was repaired and a peridiscal cyst was removed. Paxton’s fastball averaged 91.8 mph on Saturday and topped out at 93.8 mph, down from his 2019 average of 95.4 mph.
Michael King escaped the second-inning jam with minimal damage, inducing a run-scoring double-play grounder and a flyout. King served up a two-run homer to Robles in the fourth inning and a run-scoring Howie Kendrick double in the fifth, charged with four runs and four hits over 3 1/3 innings.
Giancarlo Stanton launched a mammoth homer off Nationals right-hander Erick Fedde, who allowed two runs over four innings in a spot start after ace Stephen Strasburg was scratched due to a right hand issue. Stanton’s second homer in as many days cleared the bullpen in left-center field and was projected to have traveled 483 feet with an exit velocity of 121.3 mph, according to Statcast.
Potomac Power Up. pic.twitter.com/My9MCUzLJ3
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 26, 2020