Closing Time: James Paxton dominates and more

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton hurled a gem Wednesday (AP Photo).

• James Paxton entered Wednesday with a 5.12 ERA and turned in one of the best performances of the season, tossing seven scoreless innings with an MLB-high 16 strikeouts. He ended up taking a no-decision (becoming the first AL pitcher to get a ND in a scoreless, 16-K game in nearly 50 years) but induced a whopping 31 swings-and-misses over 105 pitches (80 strikes). Oakland is strikeout-prone, but Paxton’s stuff was so filthy, no offense in baseball would’ve had much of a chance. His curveball was simply unfair.

Paxton is obviously universally owned, but Wednesday’s outing can put to rest any concern about his early season struggles (and owners can go back to just worrying about Paxton staying healthy). His 12.9 SwStr% is easily a career high, and his season FIP is down to 3.06 despite an uncharacteristic 3.72 BB/9 mark that’s sure to improve, so Paxton has Cy Young type upside. He’s recorded 60 Ks on the year over just 38.2 innings, and the only reason to entertain trading him would be durability concerns.

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• Mookie Betts and Edwin Encarnacion each had three-homer games earlier in the day, marking the former’s second such feat over the past few weeks. Betts’ dream season continues, while no doubt some frustrated Encarnacion owners had him benched (EE entered with a dismal .171/.250/.352 line). It looks like he’s salvageable yet. Meanwhile, Mike Trout hit a home run that still might not have landed.

• Jacob deGrom hyperextended his elbow while swinging and is headed for an MRI (and likely a DL trip), while Johnny Cueto is seeking three opinions on his elbow, including Dr. James Andrews, so fantasy owners should expect the worst with the latter. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who’s off to a terrific start, also left Wednesday’s start early with a groin injury.

• Giancarlo Stanton crushed two homers, while Luis Severino tossed a shutout with a 10:1 K:BB ratio in Houston, as the Astros have now gone 22 straight innings without scoring a run. If a draft were held today, Severino would cost a top-20 pick, easily.

• Sean Newcomb held the Mets to just three baserunners over seven scoreless innings, as he’s allowed two runs or fewer in four of his past five starts and is up to 42 Ks over 34.2 innings, giving the Braves yet another young player for whom to be excited. Newcomb is still available in more than 70 percent of Yahoo leagues.

• It helped Newcomb got to face the Mets, who have an NL-low .603 OPS against left-handers this season. Boston is the worst against southpaws (.554) but the best versus righties (.856) by a wide margin.

• Bryce Harper hit leadoff for the second straight game and has homered with three RBI during both, also adding a steal Wednesday. Matt Adams hit third, reached base four times and now has three long balls over the past two days. He sports a .346/.443/.750 line with six homers over 52 ABs when facing righties this season (he had an .896 OPS against them last year) and is owned in just 10 percent of leagues.

• Alex Verdugo held his own in Triple-A (118 wRC+) last season as a 20-year-old and is going to get a chance at regular playing time with the ailing Dodgers. He hit second in LA’s lineup Wednesday, recording two hits with two runs scored. The prospect (most lists have him top-40 in MLB) is owned in only five percent of leagues right now.

• Yu Darvish gave up six runs (five earned), marking the fourth time in six starts he’s failed to last five innings (while giving up at least four runs). The wind was blowing out in Wrigley Field on Wednesday, but Darvish has now given up 17 homers over 94.1 innings since getting traded to the NL last year (including the playoffs). It’s becoming tougher to excuse last year’s disaster in the postseason by him tipping pitches, and Darvish’s 9.4 SwStr% is easily a career low. He’ll improve, but I’d be lying if I said there isn’t legitimate cause for concern with Darvish.

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