The New York Yankees have mostly been built on pitching disappointment over the past several years rather than unexpected pitching success.
OK, fine, past decade and a half. Same point still stands.
Despite the proliferation of no-hitters in 2021 thus far (does the “new baseball” automatically come loaded with resin and tar?), that didn’t make Corey Kluber’s individual accomplishment any less impressive on Wednesday night in Texas. Though he joined a club and didn’t blaze his own trail, it still proved that Brian Cashman bet on the right comeback story this offseason instead of taking a second flyer on James Paxton.
In terms of the surprise factor of the whole event, though, it was somewhere between David Cone tossing his amazing first career no-no (a perfect game of course) at the age of 36 and Dwight Gooden capping his comeback with a no-hitter in 1996.
Gooden was far closer to the end of his rope, and Kluber’s most recent few starts have indicated he has something left to give for a championship-level team. Cone? He and Kluber were at similar points in their careers, but of course, the pomp and circumstance of a perfect game at home on a hot summer’s day with Yogi Berra and Don Larsen in the stands tops what we watched Wednesday in the Rangers’ brand new airplane hangar ballpark.
Let’s be a bit fairer to Kluber. Was this no-no the most surprising Yankees start of the past decade? Half-decade? If not, where does it rank on the scale?
Truth be told, though pitching hasn’t dominated the narrative for the Bombers recently, there were quite a few sterling performances to choose from, especially from pitchers who were never quite that good again in pinstripes or road grays.
Honorable mention to 2015 Nate Eovaldi, 2008 Joba Chamberlain at Fenway, and Deivi Garcia’s losing-streak stopping game on the road in Buffalo last year, which was axed because nothing in 2020 felt purposeful or enjoyable.
These three other non-Kluber starts stood out most to us.
Where does Corey Kluber rank among the top 4 Yankees starts of the decade?
4. James Paxton Mows Down the Red Sox
Admit it: this one shocked you, especially in the context of the time.
When the Boston Red Sox came to the Bronx in April 2019, they were the recently-minted World Series champions. Sure, they’d started a hilarious 2-8, but by the time James Paxton vs Chris Sale rolled around, the BoSox were back to 6-11, ready to make their mark on the AL East in, say, a blowout victory over an injured Yankees team. Or maybe a 2-0 offense-less win?
Nah. The Yanks blew out the Sox 8-0, powered by someone named Mike Tauchman (???) who knocked in four runs and went porch to blow the game open. Paxton? In his first True Yankee Moment (first of … well, probably only two), he delivered eight special two-hit innings, striking out 12 and proving he could be a force when everything lined up properly for him.
Unfortunately for Big Maple, this was as big as things would get before Game 5 of the ALCS rolled around, and he could only extend the team’s season for so long in that moment. Things haven’t been the same for the hefty lefty since mid-2019, either; he arrived with lowered velocity in 2020 following spring back surgery, found himself on the shelf, signed with Seattle, and only now underwent Tommy John surgery.
At the time, Paxton’s pedigree was well-known, but so were his injury problems. Safe to say, we didn’t quite expect him to be this good against a team we thought was a 108-win juggernaut having a bad week.