May 28, 2017, Bronx, N.Y.; Yankees 9, Oakland 5 — The Yankees wrapped up their current homestand by winning their fourth of six games, a 9-5 decision over the visiting A’s Sunday afternoon. It was a sloppy affair in which only eight of 14 runs scored were earned. Winner Michael Pineda surrendered a rare three walks, and gave back a run on his own error. But the 45,00 who attended this one will remember it for the first grand slam of right fielder Aaron Judge’s career, a drive that turned a 2-1 A’s lead on its head; it was Judge’s 16th homer of the year.
Initially, the crowd would have had reason for a bit of concern once the visitors turned Pineda’s first walk, leading off the top of the second, into a 2-0 A’s lead, given the recent offensive struggles the team has had. Of course, it could have been worse. Quick work by Brett Gardner in left on Ryon Healy’s [eventually ruled a] run-scoring single, and Starlin Castro’s ninja warrior move in catching the throw and applying the tag — just in time, via established video review — to the A’s third baseman’s arm allowed the second tally but stopped it right there. Given the six hits, then two, the Yanks had struggled to accumulate in the Friday-Saturday games — you will not guess which of those two they won — the question was, “Would the bats be able to solve the curlicue offerings of soft-throwing righthander Andrew Triggs enough to recover?”
Quick answer: yes. A Matt Holliday liner to center for the third out of the home first, bookended with a 400-foot Aaron Hicks sac fly to dead center four batters into the second inning, welcomed back the stinging bats of the first-place Yankees. And sting they did, the very next time they had the chance, even if a dropped ball in right got Judge to the plate in that frame at all. But following two hits, Holliday’s long drive toward the right field foul pole was well hit, even if Matt Joyce should have caught it. Judge drove a no-doubt-about-it liner to right four pitches later, and a crowd beside themselves at hearing the burly right fielder’s name, or much less his number 99, celebrated this drive like it had ushered in a new era.
Triggs actually restored order thereafter, around an unearned fourth-inning run, but Pineda equaled him, though his own sixth-inning error gave that run back. After the Yanks added a run on a Gary Sanchez double left fielder Khris Davis’s glove could not hold in the seventh in a great sprawling attempt, the bullpens succeeded and failed in equal measure. Davis closed it to 7-5 with a two-run jolt off Chad Green, who had relieved Pineda after six, in the top of the eighth. But Brett Gardner returned the favor with a two-run double off John Axford in the bottom half, and Dellin Betances took a seat in the bullpen, as Adam Warren picked up a four-out save, 9-5 Yankees.
With the win, the first-place Yanks stretched their lead over Boston to three games, and four and a half over the suddenly struggling Orioles. And they got the big crowd hosting a noncontender (so far) under iffy skies. As the average age of the burgeoning crowd sinks, their joy and revelry in the suddenly young team’s success grows. And much of it is driven by the fervor they feel for the new guy in right, though youth — and success — bounds around the field. Veteran fans frown at the early anointing of His Honor, the guy with the gavel in right; he’s no Mantle, not even a Mattingly, they say. Give him time. Make him show it. It’s a stand I recognize. But sorry, it’s not for me.
Here Come the Judge is not enough. I was around for the end of Mantle, but not the beginning. And I lived through all of Donnie Baseball; the balky back may have drained almost as much from me as it did him. I’m not playing it close to the vest. I’m all in. I’m not going to miss this.
May 28 is the day in 1941 that the Yanks played their first ever night game, a 6-5 win visiting Washington. And five years later, they hosted the same Senators in the first one under the lights in Yankee Stadium, a 2-1 loss to the Senators. A lot of other stuff happened too this day, blah blah this, blah blah that. But No. 3 on my list? Aaron Judge hit his first grand slam in a 9-5 win over Oakland, in Yankee Stadium, in 2017. The court is adjourned in,
A Gaveled Game