Bronx, N.Y., April 29, 2017; Yankees 12, Baltimore 4 — It wasn’t excruciating exactly, but you might have thought so given the explosion of joy released when Aaron Judge finally sent his 10th 2017 home run over the wall in right center Saturday afternoon, increasing the Yankee lead over Baltimore to 12-2 in the seventh inning. After all, it came 160 minutes from the beginning of the game, and 19 hours after he stroked his ninth the night before.
As the baseball world is coming to realize, the Yankees are on a roll. Brett Gardner, one of the few in the lineup struggling in the season’s first month, posted his first rbi’s of the year homering off Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimenez twice in the first two frames, staking the home team to an early 5-0 lead. Judge walked and scored in the second, then singled sharply over shortstop in the fourth, stealing third base before scoring as New York stretched its lead to 7-0. There would be no historic comeback required in this one, like the one Judge started with two vicious line drives over the fence Friday night.
Meanwhile, Michael Pineda was making sure any Orioles thoughts of competing were shelved, as he dominated with his fastball, slider, and change. He allowed four hits through five, and when he struck Chris Davis for the first out of the sixth, he did so by coaxing his 20th swing and miss of the game. Still, he was forced from the game one batter later, not by an offensive onslaught, but rather by an elevated pitch count. O’s third baseman Manny Machado, who led off the sixth with a booming double, would score on a Chase Headley error that ended Big Mike’s night, but Manny did much of his damage back in the first, when he battled the Yankee righty for 12 pitches before finally striking out. With a 25-pitch first, and 20-toss, two-hit third, the visitors were able to get the starter out of the game, even if it wasn’t by scoring a boatload of runs.
This was small solace, as it turned out, against a strong Yankee pen. A rusty Adam Warren did allow a second run on a single, a hit by pitch, and a wild pitch, but he would then retire seven of eight to get the game to the ninth with no further damage. A Caleb Joseph home run off an equally rusty Tommy Layne in the final frame would forge the final 12-4 score, but the Orioles were forced to look to a very effective in ’17 Wade Miley to try to escape the Bronx not being swept on Sunday. This will be a contest of southpaws, with young Jordan Montgomery pitching for New York.
That gives you most of the relevant game particulars, but not much of the excitement over late Yankee scores. When the O’s scored two in the sixth, closing the score to 7-2, it didn’t stay that close for long. Leading off the bottom half, Judge walked, and one out later scored on an Austin Romine home run, giving the Yankee catcher five rbi’s on the day. And then came the moment many in the crowd had come to see. Didi Gregorius, who gave fans hope by batting .444 over a week or so of rehab games, matched that mark in two games back by doubling in Starlin Castro with a shot off the right center field wall in the home seventh. Then Judge finally gave the 37,000 in attendance what they longed for, with a long home run to right on on 0-1 pitch, scoring the final Yankee tallies of the day. The crowd exploded much as they had with Matt Holliday’s walkoff the night before.
A few weeks ago, excitement was growing as Judge was demonstrating that he would not be the strike out machine he became late last year. He was hitting in the mid-200s, working long at bats, and taking his walks as they came. Word has gotten around, and today, he climbed over the .300 mark, as he walked twice, had two hard hits, and scored all four times he came to the plate. And he batted seventh on a Yankee team that will probably have Gary Sanchez back in two to three weeks.
Baseball celebrates the 83rd birthday of Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio on this day. And on April 29, 2006, the Yankees accomplished something they had done just once before, back in 1939, the fourth of four straight World Series winning seasons: They scored in every inning of a 17-6 thrashing of the visiting Blue Jays. Don’t look now, but they have not only pushed across runs 10 of the last 14 times they have batted; they’ve scored 26 runs in those frames. And Aaron Judge is just one of the young stars behind that surge. How far does this go?
Fifty years ago today, Aretha Franklin’s rendition of Motown anthem Respect was released. The season is young, but the court is in session. It’s time to do what the joyful screamers did in the Bronx did today. Render Mr. Judge a little …