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Red Sox 6, Cardinals 8: James Backston

James Paxton looked sharp in his return, but the bullpen just didn’t have it tonight

St. Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Regardless of the outcome, the story tonight was always going to be James Paxton’s return to the mound for the first time in 766 days. Luckily for me, the game recapper, I’ve been here before. Evaluating James Paxton tonight is basically the same task as evaluating Chris Sale when he returned from a long hiatus. After pouring over the film, rewatching every pitch, and diving into the pitching models and advanced statistics I’ve come to a conclusion on Paxton. Who the hell knows?

It’s easy to forget just how good Paxton was, given that he hasn’t pitched in more than five games in a season since 2019. As a refresher, his career K/9 is just under ten. He doesn’t have enough innings to qualify for the all-time leaderboard, but his mark of 9.91 coming into this one would rank him 11th. Of all time. Ever. Let that sink in.

I want to get on my rooftop and scream that James Paxton is back, I really do. Unfortunately, I can’t do that for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I don’t make enough money to live in an apartment building with roof access, nor do I have the strength and dexterity required to scale my building. Also, it was only five innings. But man oh man, those were five really fun innings. Nine strikeouts, 96 mph on the fastball on his way to ten fastball whiffs, and just two runs from an early home run.

Still, there are some kinks to work out. He definitely caught too much of the plate with his fastball and he had no feel for the cutter. This is baseball though, and it’s a process. It’s his first game in two years, so for now, let’s celebrate his success, and take this as one building block in a long, long season.

Enough positivity. What a brutal game to lose. The lineup battled back to regain the lead multiple times, only for the bullpen to give it back. Josh Winckowski and Kenley Jansen had their worst performances of the season, and a ball girl stole a run. Can’t win ‘em all, but tonight was a real gut punch.

Three Studs

Rafael Devers (.22 WPA, 1-4, RBI)

Raffy had the game-tying double in the bottom of the eighth which accounts for most of the WPA here. He did make a base-running mistake that probably cost the Red Sox another run. You get paid to run the bases too, you know?

Jarren Duran (1-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB)

Duran continues to swing a hot bat, making me believe more and more that he’s found it. He’s playing a better center-field as well and has been exactly what the Red Sox needed through all their injuries.

The Red Sox Foundation

Tonight was the annual Red Sox Foundation game where they plug all of the good work they do on a daily basis. Go check out all that they do,

Three Duds

Kenley Jansen (-0.77 WPA, 0.0 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 ER)

Kenley may have gone a little too hard for his 400th save. From the first batter, you could tell he didn’t have it. Blown saves are never fun, but he’s been nails for most of the year, so you can’t give him too much guff.

Josh Winckowski (-0.26 WPA, 0.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER)

Winckowski just didn’t have it tonight. He coughed up the lead and handed it off to Richard Bleier who couldn’t strand the runner. Can’t have your best stuff every night, I guess.

Kiké Hernandez (-0.22 WPA, 0-4, 1 K)

Tough night at the plate for Kiké, who couldn’t come through in a couple of big spots.

Play of the Game

The play of the game in this one goes to Rafael Devers’ eighth-inning double to tie the game, even though it wasn’t in a winning effort.


Who was the Red Sox Player of the Game on May 12, 2023 vs. St. Louis

This poll is closed

  • 93%
    James Paxton
    (138 votes)
  • 4%
    Jarren Duran
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    Rafael Devers
    (3 votes)
147 votes total Vote Now