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James Paxton gets a taste of the playoffs at Dodger Stadium


LOS ANGELES — It’s what James Paxton imagines the playoffs would feel like. Friday night, Dodger Stadium was packed and loud. There was a little crispness in the air. A full contingent of local and national media was on hand and cameras were everywhere. For the 30-year-old left-hander, the experience of pitching in a sold-out Dodger Stadium on Friday night is as close as he has come to a postseason atmosphere yet in his career.

“It felt like what I would expect (the playoffs) to be like,” Paxton said. “It’s good to have that experience, I guess. I could use it for October, especially if we come back here.”

Well, when you peel away all the hype of the two popular teams, that is what this weekend has been all about: a chance to scope out a possible World Series matchup.

New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

But, there is obviously a lot of history and hype to unpack as well.

The Yankees and Dodgers faced off in this rare interleague series this weekend with all of baseball watching. It was the first time the Yankees had come to Dodger Stadium since July 2013, adding to the uniqueness of the series. They are two of the most iconic franchises in the game, which once shared a city and much history. The Yankees and Dodgers have played 11 times for the World Series title, but not since 1981.

These teams came in with the two best records in baseball, though with the Yankees loss on Saturday, the Astros moved ahead of them for the best record in the American League.

So this weekend was more than just a fun, rare series.

It could prove to be a practical tune-up for what the Yankees hope is a long postseason run. For guys like Paxton, who has never pitched in the playoffs, it’s a chance to feel what it’s like to block out the electric atmosphere of a sold out ballpark that is excited and loud. Like Paxton, Sunday night’s starter, Domingo German has never appeared in a playoff game. He responded well to the playoff-like atmosphere in a big Sunday night game against the Red Sox at Fenway last month. Sunday night, going against Clayton Kershaw, the two pitchers who lead the majors in wins, was another chance for German to prove himself ready for October.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone has seen enough of the 27-year-old to have every confidence he will live up to the moment Sunday night or in the playoffs.

“Bottom line with Domingo is, I have a ton of confidence in him in any situation. He has proven to me, whatever the result is tonight or yesterday or in the postseason, I don't believe it will ever be because it's too big a spot for him,” Boone said. “He's really good at controlling his emotions, really focusing on the next pitch. I think he's done a great job of that all year whether he's been rolling or whether he's going through an outing where he's struggling. He does a good job of that and I would expect that to continue”

But this is also something of a scouting trip for the Yankees as well.

“I think it just gives our hitters and our staff some up close familiarity with the matchup and give you a better context of who they are,” Boone said of the Dodgers. Obviously not being a team in our league or being a team we see a lot, to get some up-close look at some guys is valuable for everyone involved.

“So I think there’s a lot hopefully we can take out of this weekend. Adds to how we look at them.”

Brett Gardner, one of the only two remaining veterans of the Yankees last World Series title (2009), said there is some value for guys getting to see a possible playoff opponent and get some experience in the ballpark.

“This isn’t a place we get to very often, so it’s fun to see it and it’s great to play here,” Gardner said. “Like I told some of the Dodgers yesterday, I wished them luck the rest of the way and I hope we see them here again in October.”