Paxton tries to regain form as Yankees face Rays

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Last season, the New York Yankees gained significant experience finding replacements for Giancarlo Stanton when he appeared in only 18 games.

This year, Stanton appeared in 14 games before injuring his left hamstring, and the Yankees will get more experience finding a replacement for the slugger starting on Sunday, when they conclude a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla

Stanton got only 59 at-bats in his second season with the Yankees due to biceps, knee injuries, shoulder and calf injuries and then injured his calf during the first spring training. He hit his third homer in the doubleheader and is batting .293, but those numbers will be paused after Stanton tweaked his hamstring on a slide at second base during New York’s 5-3 loss in the second game on Saturday.

Manager Aaron Boone said the designated hitter is headed for the injured list.

“That’s tough,” Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge said. “A guy that’s starting out with MVP numbers, driving the ball, coming up in big situations for us, that’s going to be a tough loss for however long he’s out. But our motto just like last year is next man up.”

Without Stanton, the Yankees will try to attain a split in a building where they have lost six of their last seven visits. The Yankees will try to halt their first slump of the season, as they enter the series with four losses in six games following a seven-game winning streak that gave them an 8-1 record.

New York hit three homers in getting an 8-4 win in the opener of the doubleheader but allowed nine walks and did not homer for only the second time all season in the nightcap.

Tampa Bay entered the series with six losses in seven games but has won two tight games in the series.

After getting a 1-0 win Friday, the Rays salvaged the split by getting two-run singles from Austin Meadows and Kevan Smith. Meadows’ hit broke a 1-1 tie and Smith’s hit proved to be the game-winning hit.

“We’ll take any of them, hard-hit blooper, it doesn’t matter right now,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We just want to get some guys on base and come up with a hit. It doesn’t have to be the hardest hit ball and when you are scuffling like we are as a team; anything can really energize a dugout.”

The Rays are 22-5 in their last 27 regular-season home games and send Charlie Morton (1-1, 5.52 ERA) to the mound Sunday.

Morton is the only Rays starter with a win this season and he got that win Tuesday, when he allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings Tuesday against the Red Sox. He allowed a homer to Mitch Moreland in the second inning and then retired nine of the last 10 hitters.

Morton is 4-2 with a 3.97 ERA in eight career starts against the Yankees and at Tropicana Field, he is 2-0 with an 0.77 ERA in two starts against New York. He last faced the Yankees Sept. 25 in St. Petersburg, when he pitched 5 2/3 hitless innings before allowing a two-out single to DJ LeMahieu.

New York is hoping to see improved velocity from James Paxton Sunday. Paxton (0-1, 13.50) underwent back surgery in February and his average fastball velocity through two starts is 91.8 mph, down from 95.4 last season when he was a 15-game winner.

Paxton is pitching on six days’ rest and has yet to complete three innings. He last pitched a week ago in New York’s 9-7 win over Boston, when he allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits in three innings.

“I’m concerned,” Paxton said. “Trying to do everything I can to figure out what’s going on.”

Paxton is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in five career starts against the Rays.

–Field Level Media

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