Paxton Conquers Wind, Elevation

James Paxton turned in one of the most impressive pitching performances I’ve seen in the Pacific Coast League on Friday night, in a 6-1 Tacoma win at Albuquerque.

The conditions in this game were ripe for a 15-12 slugfest. Here’s what Paxton had to deal with:

A) High elevation. Albuquerque is 5,300 feet above sea level, similar to Coors Field in Denver.

B) Extreme wind. Massive winds were blowing out to left field throughout his time on the mound.

C) Familiarity. He was facing the Isotopes for his third time this season, and they scored seven runs in 2.1 innings against him the last time he faced them.

Paxton overcame these conditions by pounding the bottom of the strike zone with his fastball. This allowed him to keep the ball out of the air – avoiding wind-blown home runs and swirling pop-fly hits.

He recorded 21 outs: 11 grounders in the infield, seven strikeouts, two flyouts to the outfield, and one foul flair to the first baseman.

He ended up going seven innings, allowing four hits and one run on a solo homer by Cody Decker. He didn’t walk anyone (another key), and had the seven strikeouts.

It was a complete mastery of a very difficult problem.

I’ve seen many of these kinds of situations over the years in the PCL, and it almost always turns into a high-scoring game.

This one reminded me of another great pitching performance, a Brian Sweeney complete game shutout at Colorado Springs in similar conditions many years ago. Or how about Cesar Jimenez‘s near no-hitter at Las Vegas? That’s another one.


Yesterday: James Paxton continued the Rainiers run of excellent starting pitching with a seven-inning effort in Tacoma’s 6-1 road trip opening win at Albuquerque. Mike Zunino hit his ninth homer of the season – and his sixth in five games at Isotopes Park. Tacoma has won six straight games, allowing a total of seven runs during the streak.

Today: Tacoma (17-11) at Albuquerque (16-13), 6:05 (Pacific).

Opponent Affiliation: Colorado Rockies.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 6-3.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Adrian Sampson (3-1, 2.67) at RHP Shane Carle (2-2, 7.92).

Hot Rainiers: Ed Lucas has three homers and two doubles during a five-game hitting streak… Shawn O’Malley is 10-for-19 during a six-game surge… Daniel Robertson has gone 8-for-19 over his last five games…Boog Powell has a six-game streak with 11 hits.

Look Out For: Mike Tauchman carries a nine-game hitting streak into tonight, and he’s reached base in 24 straight games… Jordan Patterson has reached base in 24 of 26 games this season… Brandon Barnes has hit safely in all six games since being sent to Triple-A by the Rockies.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.


PCL Game Reports:

The Rainiers have out-scored opponents 35-7 during the six-game winning streak. Can it continue tonight? We’ll find out soon!


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