|Aaron Judge touching home plate on his 40th home run of the season in the third inning on Friday night. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Yankees scored eight runs in the eighth inning to storm back and beat the Kansas City Royals, 11-5, on Friday night at a rainy Yankee Stadium, as Aaron Judge hit a pair of home runs, his 40th and 41st home runs of the season, along with six RBI. The Yankees have now taken the first two games of this four-game set to improve to 68-33.
Amazingly, Judge has those 41 home runs in the Yankees' first 101 games of a season, joining Babe Ruth, yes, The Babe, as the only Yankees to have accomplished the feat. Ruth did it twice, in 1921 and 1928. Judge is only the seventh Major League player (eighth time) to have at least 41 HR through 101 games, with the others in addition to Ruth being Jimmie Foxx (41 HR in 1932 with Philadelphia Athletics), Reggie Jackson (41 HR with Oakland A's in 1969), Luis Gonzalez (41 HR with Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001), Barry Bonds (42 HR with San Francisco Giants in 2001), and Mark McGwire (43 HR with St. Louis Cardinals in 1998).
Judge hit a two-run home run in the third inning and a grand slam in the eighth, which capped the eight-run explosion that put them up 11-5. This gave him nine multi-home run games for the season, which already is a franchise record. He passed a quartet of Yankees who had eight in a single season: Gleyber Torres in 2019, Alex Rodriguez in 2007, Mickey Mantle in 1961, and Babe Ruth in 1927.
The nine multi-homer games Judge has are the most by any Major Leaguer through the first 101 games of a season, surpassing the eight by Albert Pujols in 2009, Luis Gonzalez in 2001, and Reggie Jackson in 1969.
Judge is the first Major Leaguer to reach 40 home runs before the calendar hits August since Barry Bonds and Luis Gonzalez both did it in 2001, and he is just the third Yankee to do it, joining Babe Ruth in 1928 and Roger Maris in 1961.
"He's amazing," Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said on Friday night before a question was even asked in his postgame press conference. "He's just doing some really special things, obviously, you know, 41, the grand slam to put the cherry on top there, just more great at-bats. Great play to start the game taking a home run back, maybe we should give him three tonight, so he's up to 42, we should give him 42 with the robbery right out of the gate, so just a special player doing really amazing things."
Judge has driven in 19 of the Yankees' 38 runs over the last eight games, and he has three multi-home run games in their last 11.
Judge ended the series opener on Thursday night with a walk-off solo home run to give the Yankees a 1-0 win, and he made his presence felt immediately in this one.
Kansas City leadoff hitter MJ Melendez opened the game with a blast to right field that Judge leaped over the fence to grab. That sent the festive Friday night crowd of 42,481 into a frenzy.
Cole then got Whit Merrifield to ground out to first base and Salvador Perez to fly out to left field to finish the first, and Cole kept it going, retiring the first seven Royals until Maikel Garcia singled with one out in the third inning.
The Yankees gave Cole a quick lead as Anthony Rizzo crushed a blast to center field, off Kansas City starter Kris Bubic, for a solo shot in the first, his 24th on the season, to give them a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third, after DJ LeMahieu walked, Judge was up next, and he launched one to left center field for a two-run shot, his 40th of the season, and that made it 3-0.
Cole kept cruising, all the way until there were two outs in the fifth inning. Garcia and Nicky Lopez singled to keep the inning alive, and then Melendez grounded one to first, which Rizzo took a while to get to, and Cole, with the rain coming down, was careful heading toward the bag, and Melendez beat it out to load the bases.
Whit Merrifield was up next, and he laced a double over Rizzo's head into right field to bring in Garcia and Lopez and cut the Yankees' lead to 3-2.
Salvador Perez was up next, and he launched a blast to center field for a three-run shot, and just like that, the Royals were up 5-3.
By this point, Bubic was rolling, and he started a run in which he retired eight straight Yankees after the Judge homer in the third.
Judge broke that streak when he got a leadoff single in the sixth, and that was followed by a two-out single from Josh Donaldson, which brought new Yankee Andrew Benintendi to the plate.
Benintendi, still looking for his first hit as a Yankee, softly lined one to short to end the threat, and that would close Bubic's night. The left-hander's final line was: 6 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 2 walks, 6 strikeouts.
Cole exited after the sixth too, and his line on a night when he went from having stuff worthy of a no-hitter to coughing up the lead, was: 6 innings, 7 hits, 5 runs (all earned), 0 walks, 9 strikeouts.
Boone said of his ace's performance, "Not a great line, obviously, it ends up being for Gerrit, but just kind of a weird night because he was kind of dominant, kind of in command, kind of just got some tough breaks that inning (the fifth), but then made a, you know, a mistake for the three-run homer for Perez that really got him, so I know that's a little frustrating, but I thought he threw the ball well and just a weird inning, a little bit like our weird inning on offense in the eighth, broke out." (a description of the Yankees' eighth is coming up)
Aroldis Chapman, who appears to be settling in to his new middle relief role, retired Kansas City in order in the seventh.
Kansas City turned to right-hander Jose Cuas for the bottom of the seventh, and he got Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to each fly out to left field to open the inning. Cuas then allowed a two-out double to Matt Carpenter, who dropped one down the third base line with the shift on, but LeMahieu flew out to right field to end the inning, and a brief rain delay followed.
After Albert Abreu pitched a scoreless top of the eighth to keep the Royals' lead at 5-3, Kansas City turned to Scott Barlow.
Judge struck out to open the inning, but Rizzo and Torres followed with singles to get the rally going. Donaldson then hit one into the hole at short that Garcia bobbled, so Donaldson reached and the Yankees had the bases loaded with one out.
Benintendi was up next, and he hit one to first that Vinnie Pasquantino got to, but couldn't get out of his glove, so Benintendi beat it out to earn his first hit as a Yankee and his first RBI, as Rizzo came in to score and it was now 5-4 Royals.
Hicks then drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in Torres and tie it at 5, and then Kiner-Falefa singled in Donaldson, and Jose Trevino got an RBI groundout to bring in Benintendi and make it 7-5 Yankees.
That was all for Barlow, and the Royals turned to Jackson Kowar, who walked LeMahieu to re-load the bases for, who else, Judge, who did what you would expect.
Judge blasted one to right field for a grand slam, which made it an eight-run eighth inning for the Yankees. This was home run #41, which also gave him 89 RBI on the season, which gives him a clear lead over the Mets' Pete Alonso, who has 84, for the Major League lead.
Rizzo then walked, and Torres hit a ground-rule double to keep the rally going, but Josh Donaldson popped out to second base to end an inning in which the Yanks scored eight runs, six of which were unearned, on six hits and three walks, with one big error by K.C., as they sent 13 runners to the plate.
Wandy Peralta pitched a scoreless ninth to close it out, and Abreu, who was with Kansas City before joining the Yankees a month ago, got the win, improving to 2-0, as he continues to be a reliable arm out of the Yankee bullpen.