NEW YORK (AP) — For all the talk of an imminent turnaround, James Paxton has not been much of an improvement over Sonny Gray for the New York Yankees.
Paxton allowed a leadoff home run for the second straight outing when Charlie Blackmon shook out of a slump with the first of his four hits , starting the Colorado Rockies to an 8-4 win on Sunday that halted a six-game skid and New York’s five-game winning streak.
Blackmon had been 1 for 9 with four strikeouts in the first two games of the series before hitting the third leadoff homer against Paxton this season, after Baltimore’s Jonathan Villar on April 4 and Tampa Bay’s Travis d’Arnaud last Monday. Paxton (5-5) has a 10.06 ERA in the first inning, allowing eight home runs, and has given up runs in the opening inning in seven of his last nine starts. His ERA after the first is 2.75.
“I can’t be going out there and giving up runs every first inning,” he said. “I’m continuing to play with things and try to figure things out so that I don’t have that keep happening.”
Gray was 7-7 with a 5.34 ERA at this point last season, was dropped from the rotation in early August and traded to Cincinnati in January after the Yankees determined he didn’t have the makeup to pitch in New York.
Acquired from Seattle last November after going 23-11 over his previous two seasons, Paxton has failed to finish five innings seven times in 17 starts and has a 4.20 ERA overall, which might lead the Yankees to seek more starting pitching ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
Manager Aaron Boone attributed Paxton’s difficulty against the Rockies to falling behind batters, poor defense, heat on the second straight 94-degree day at Yankee Stadium and softly hit balls dropping in for hits.
Paxton gave up seven runs — four earned — five hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings, and is winless in five starts since June 21.
“It does seem like it takes a little bit to get his stuff really, really popping,” Boone said. “I think overall he’s been good for us. … I view him as a guy that we’re going to lean on heavily down the stretch and hopefully in October.”
DJ LaMahieu homered on the first pitch from German Márquez (9-5) in the bottom of the first, Mike Tauchman went deep in the fifth and Aaron Hicks hit a two-run drive in the eighth off Scott Oberg. The Yankees had not allowed and then hit a leadoff homer in the same game since Aug. 17, 2006, when Baltimore’s Brian Roberts started against Jaret Wright, and Johnny Damon connected off Rodrigo López.
New York (64-34) headed on a trip to AL Central leader Minnesota and Boston with a nine-game AL East lead after a 7-3 homestand.
Blackmon went 4 for 5, Nolan Arenado hit a tiebreaking, two-run double and David Dahl added a two-run single in the third, when three runs were unearned because first baseman Luke Voit allowed Tony Wolters’ sacrifice bunt to bounce off his glove for an error. After Blackmon’s single chased Paxton in the fourth, Trevor Story greeted Chad Green with a two-run double for a 7-1 lead.
“I think it was just a little bit of fatigue, just wasn’t seeing the ball good for a little while,” Blackmon said. “We needed that. We needed to put a couple of runs early.”
Colorado had lost 13 of its 15 previous games and made a flurry of roster moves Sunday morning. Veteran infielder Mark Reynolds was designated for assignment two home runs shy of 300 after hitting .170 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 135 at-bats. Right-hander Jeff Hoffman and lefty Sam Howard were brought up from Triple-A and Antonio Senzatela demoted, after allowing six runs in 1 1/3 innings on Saturday.
Márquez allowed two runs and three hits in seven innings , improving to 7-0 with a 2.98 ERA in 14 interleague starts. After giving up 11 runs over 2 2/3 innings in a 19-2 loss to San Francisco on July 15, he lowered his ERA to 4.99, still the highest among qualified NL pitchers.
“The last couple of nights have been short starts, so to have him go seven innings in this heat is very impressive,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.
Wolters played all nine innings behind the plate for the second straight afternoon and said he lost about 10 pounds in water weight Sunday. The public address system played Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” in the middle of the first. Wolters said plate umpires kept changing ice packs in their chest protector during inning breaks.
“It makes you appreciate the dry weather in Denver,” Wolters said.
START ME UP
Chris Iannetta led off three innings with walks and scored in all three. Yankees C Gary Sánchez allowed Iannetta to score in the eighth on his sixth passed ball , down from 18 last year and 16 in 2017.
Rockies: Arenado was 1 for 4, a day after leaving in the eighth inning because of a right leg cramp.
Yankees: Voit was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and used a faceguard attached to his helmet, a day after he was struck on the chin by a pitch from Chad Bettis … LF Brett Gardner was scratched from the lineup and did not play after an MRI showed inflammation in his left knee. Gardner said he was hurt making a sliding catch on Ryan McMahon in the ninth inning Saturday and might miss a day or two.
Rockies: RHP Peter Lambert (2-1) starts Monday at Washington.
Yankees: A day after turning 39, LHP CC Sabathia (5-4) starts at Minnesota, where LHP Martín Pérez (8-3) opens the series for the AL Central-leading Twins.
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