NEW YORK – Aaron Boone liked what he saw from Aaron Judge on Friday night, even before the first pitch.
“Judgy kind of had that look in his eye tonight,” the New York Yankees manager said. “Sometimes he tells me he’s got us, but he kind of gave me that look right before the game, like: `I got this.”‘
Judge hit a pair of opposite-field home runs and threw out a runner from center field, leading New York over Cleveland 4-1 in the first trip to the Bronx by the renamed Guardians. Reliever Michael King helped keep New York ahead by striking out eight in three innings, fanning his last seven batters.
Judge put the Yankees in front against Eli Morgan (1-1) when he followed a two-out walk to DJ LeMahieu in the third with a drive into the right-field seats, over the new video board that replaced a hand-operated scoreboard. Judge added a solo shot into the short porch in the fifth off Tanner Tully, a 27-year-old left-hander who made his major league debut.
Judge entered with just one home run this season after cutting off talks on opening day for a long-term contract. It was the 17th two-homer game for Judge, who can become a free agent after the World Series.
New York led 3-1 when Andres Gimenez reached on a slow bouncer starting the fifth. He tried for third on Steven Kwan‘s single to center but hesitated after rounding second. Judge threw a 90.6 mph strike to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who applied the tag.
“JD put a good tag. I left it a little high for him,” Judge said. “The ball kind of checked up on me a little bit. I know they were just playing soccer here, so aybe that had something to do with it.”
Isiah Kiner-Falefa added an RBI single in the fourth.
Jameson Taillon (1-1) allowed one run and seven hits in five innings, giving up Franmil Reyes‘ home run in the fourth. Taillon kept Cleveland off-balance with 22 curves, 21 fastballs, 14 sliders, 13 changeups, eight sinkers and six cutters.
King allowed one hit and also recorded Kwan’s fourth strikeout in 51 plate appearances this season.
“If you’re on their side, I can see why they’re excited,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “That was impressive.”
King went to a 3-0 count on Reyes, his first batter.
“It was actually weird. I felt terrible in my pregame bullpen,” King said. “Could not throw a strike. And then I go out there and it’s 3-0. And I was like: Uh oh, here we go. And then, I don’t know, it just clicked. And it felt good after that. So maybe I got to have more bad bullpens.”
For now, Boone is not thinking of switching King to the rotation.
“The book is certainly not closed on that and certainly like he would be capable of that,” the manager said, “but in the here and now, just kind of focused on this kind of hybrid role that’s so valuable for us.”
Aroldis Chapman fanned two in a one-hit ninth for his fourth save in four chances.
Jose Ramirez, who entered with a big league-best .426 average, went 0 for 4 and dropped to .392. Kwan singled and doubled, raising the rookie’s average to .395, but Cleveland fanned 15 times and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Morgan made his first start this season, filling a slot that opened when Cal Quantrill tested positive for COVID-19. Morgan gave up two runs and one hit in three innings.
In a clubhouse filled with smiles and laughter after the game, Judge still wasn’t sure what look Boone was referring to.
“It’s tough to see. I haven’t seen it,” Judge said. “I’ve got to ask Boonie next time.”
Bryan Lavastida singled to right through the shift in the third for his first big league hit after an 0-for-8 start.
BEHIND THE PLATE
Francona turned 63.
“I’ve felt old since 1980,” he said.
Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and was repeatedly booed by the crowd of 41,062 before he was removed in the eighth. He is hitting .122 after going 1 for his last 23, and he turned the wrong way on Amed Rosario‘s fourth-inning drive to left, a ball that fell behind him for a double.
Quantrill (0-1) would be activated to start Saturday if he passes COVID-19 protocols, and Tully will be optioned to Triple-A Columbus. LHP Nestor Cortes (0-0) is to start for the Yankees.