NEW YORK — The Baby Bombers arrived with a bang. Two of them.
Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge became the first teammates to hit home runs in the first at-bats of their major league debuts in the same game, sparking the New York Yankees to an 8-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
And New York’s 24-year-old newbies did it back-to-back in a five-pitch span during the second inning.
Called up before the game as part of a youth movement that led to Alex Rodriguez‘s release, Austin batted seventh and sliced a 2-2 fastball from Matt Andriese (6-4) to the opposite field. The 331-foot drive down the right-field line landed in the first row over the short porch, about 3 feet fair.
Judge, wearing No. 99, drove a 1-2 changeup 446 feet off the railing above a sports bar in center field and into the netting above Monument Park.
Only once before had two players homered in the first at-bat of their debuts in the same game, and they were on opposing teams: Brooklyn’s Earnie Koy and the Phillies’ Heinie Mueller in the first inning at Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl on April 19, 1938.
Both Austin and Judge went 2 for 4, Austin using a bat with a lime-colored grip and Judge swinging black lumber. Austin, wearing No. 26, also swiped a base.
Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer in the fifth for a 6-3 lead, and Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius – batting cleanup for the first time in his big league career – also went deep. The Yankees (60-56), whose homers all came from players 26 and under, won their fourth straight and matched their season high of four games over .500.
New York started a pair of players making their big league debuts for the first time since center fielder Jim Lyttle and catcher John Ellis against the California Angels on May 17, 1969.
Judge had just ordered a postgame midnight meal with his parents in Rochester when Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Al Pedrique walked up to his table at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and told him about the call-up. So after a bacon burger and mac and cheese, first baseman drove through the night with mom and dad, arriving at a Parsippany, New Jersey, hotel around 6 a.m.
“It was kind of a shock,” said Judge, who at first thought Pedrique was kidding.
Austin had gotten his news earlier Friday. When his flight was canceled, the Yankees sent a car service to take him on the 5-hour drive.
In a coincidence that highlighted the generational change, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams were at Yankee Stadium for a 20th anniversary celebration of the 1996 World Series championship team, the start of a dynasty that would win four titles in five years.
“I’m excited to see all these guys that I watched on TV in October,” Judge said.
Manager Joe Girardi noticed the parallels.
“I think it’s good for them to be here today to see that these guys were young, these guys performed at a high level and they had a long run. Let’s go do the same thing,” the manager said.
Receiving their first recognition from the Bleacher Creatures in the game-opening roll call, they joined 23-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez, who entered the game hitting .357 (10 for 28) with three doubles, a home run and four RBIs since he was brought up Aug. 3.
Girardi said Judge, a burly 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds, will be the regular right fielder. Austin will share time at first with Mark Teixeira and also DH.
General manager Brian Cashman planned to bring up Austin and added Judge once it became clear following Friday night’s game that Brett Gardner would be sidelined for several days after getting hit by a pitch above the right ankle.
“I figured Judge, being his first call-up, he’s not going to sleep anyway,” Cashman said. “Thank God he’s young, because if that was me, I would be a zombie right now.”
Austin, who also plays corner outfield and third base, overcame testicular cancer surgery at age 17 and was a 13th-round draft pick in 2010. His career slowed after a wrist injury and he was designated for assignment Sept. 1, giving other teams a chance to claim him off waivers.
He remained with the Yankees and after playing in the Arizona Fall League and Venezuelan Winter League, he started this year at Double-A Trenton and blossomed after he was promoted to Scranton on June 4.
Cashman wouldn’t rule out more veterans leaving by the start of next season, opening more opportunities.
“It’s always in the best interest to be open-minded and listen,” he said. “I wouldn’t say anybody is untouchable.”
Yankees: Gardner said X-rays were negative.