Dodgers' James Paxton bests Cy Young contenders in unheralded outing vs. White Sox

Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

James Paxton's starts for the Dodgers this season have proven to be something of a mixed bag. His first start this month saw him only going 1 2/3 innings and giving up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits and two walks. Despite getting a lot better with his location since his eight-walk outing against the Padres on April 14, it has remained a consistent and lingering issue for Paxton; he's made tweaks in his delivery and had to compensate for the losses of his cutter and a few ticks of velocity on his fastball.

Luckily, after months of fine-tuning, his start against the White Sox on Monday was one of best of the season so far. He pitched five innings and only allowed three hits but no runs. He still gave up three walks, but also struck out six batters — the most this season only behind his June 17 start, when he struck out eight.

Although his opponents were just the lowly White Sox, quite literally the worst team in baseball, Paxton also induced 18 whiffs against them during his start (16 in just three innings), more than Cy Young-caliber pitchers Zack Wheeler and Corbin Burnes did in their own starts against Chicago this season.

James Paxton leveling up against White Sox is a great sign for Dodgers' depleted rotation

Half of Paxton's strikeouts on Monday came off his fastball, which included an incredibly effective climbing of the ladder that got Korey Lee swinging on a heater well above the zone. During that same inning, he painted the top of the zone and got Corey Julks to go down swinging on seven pitches. His knuckle curve also came out to play, inducing the other half of his strikeouts and making Chicago's hitters look silly on the way.

Paxton's last three starts have all been incredibly impressive — 18 innings pitched and only seven hits and two runs allowed. It's coming at the perfect time for the Dodgers rotation, which took a massive hit when Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Walker Buehler went down last week. Landon Knack is back up from Triple-A to fill in the gap and bring the Dodgers back up to five starters, and Gavin Stone has been one of LA's fastest-rising stars, but Paxton is really starting to bring up the back end of the rotation when they need it most.

The Dodgers have been hesitant to push him too hard, given his history of injury, but the extra day of rest he gets between his starts, supplemented by the rise of the bullpen, has clearly been working out for everyone. You never know how much Paxton you're going to get, but at least the Dodgers can confidently say they've received an elevated version lately, when they've needed it most.