Yankees’ Judge walks off Astros for 2nd time in 4 days

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Aaron Judge drove a three-run homer in the 10th inning for his second walk-off hit against the Astros in four days, and the New York Yankees recovered after nearly being no-hit for the second consecutive game to beat Houston 6-3 for a four-game split between the AL’s top teams.

Giancarlo Stanton ended a historic hitless drought for New York with a one-out homer in the seventh inning, and DJ LeMahieu followed with a tying two-run drive in the eighth.

After Michael King stranded the bases loaded in the 10th, Isiah Kiner-Falefa dropped a two-strike bunt that moved automatic runner Aaron Hicks to third. Right-hander Seth Martinez intentionally walked pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter and struck out LeMahieu, setting up a two-out showdown with the Judge.

Just like on Thursday, when he broke a 6-all tie with a single in the ninth, Judge lifted the major league-leading Yankees. His rocket to left-center on a slider landed in the visiting bullpen.

After rounding the bases, Judge walked over the to stands and gifted his bat to film director Spike Lee.

With their 10th walkoff win this year, the Yankees improved to 53-20 and matched the third-best 73-game start in the majors since 1930 – trailing only the 2001 Mariners and 1998 Yankees. They are 24-1 when Judge and Stanton homer in the same game, including 8-0 this season.

They hardly hit like a juggernaut most of the weekend.

Jose Urquidy was eight outs from Houston’s second straight no-hitter before Stanton connected, cutting the Astros’ lead to 3-1. The Yankees had been 0 for 52 since the eighth inning of a 3-1 loss Friday night – a stretch including a combined no-hitter by Cristian Javier, Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly on Saturday.

New York’s 16 1/3-inning hitless drought was the longest by any team since at least 1961, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. No team has ever been no-hit in consecutive games, although the 1917 Chicago White Sox were no-hit on consecutive days by the St. Louis Browns, but the second gem came in the second game of a doubleheader.

LeMahieu tied it with a no-doubt, two-out homer off reliever Phil Maton, who had let Kiner-Falefa aboard with a single.

King (5-1) had to wriggle out of trouble in the 10th after New York’s defense slipped up twice. Shortstop Kiner-Falefa booted Jose Altuve‘s grounder, and catcher Jose Trevino‘s attempt to pick off Jason Castro at second base backfired when Castro took third.

King walked Alex Bregman with one out to load the bases, then retired Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel. King reached 100 mph for the first time in his career during the at-bat against Bregman.

A crowd of 47,422 slumped in their seats most of the afternoon – the biggest cheers early on came for a cloud that briefly subdued the blazing afternoon sun. The Astros have become every bit as hated in the Bronx as the rival Red Sox after eliminating New York from the postseason three times since 2015 – including during their scandal-tainted title run in 2017.

Altuve hushed his harassers by hammering Nestor Cortes‘ first pitch, matching ex-teammate George Springer for the major league lead with seven leadoff homers. Mauricio Dubon added a two-run single in the fourth.

Altuve also walked twice and stole two bases.

Houston star Michael Brantley was replaced in the eighth inning with right shoulder discomfort. The five-time All-Star was 0 for 3, dropping his batting average to .288.

The Astros were also without slugger Yordan Alvarez, held out of the lineup with a lingering hand issue. He pinch-hit aganst Clay Holmes in the ninth inning and was intentionally walked.

The Yankees’ Gleyber Torres was stranded at third base in the ninth when he sprained his right ankle and was easily picked off tagged out while writhing in the dirt. Manager Aaron Boone called the sprain mild.

Stanek extended his AL-best scoreless streak to 19 1/3 innings. Martinez (0-1) had the second longest run at 17 2/3 innings prior to Judge’s blast, helping Houston entered with a major league-best 2.63 ERA.

Urquidy allowed the one hit over seven innings. He walked three and struck out three on 98 pitches.

Stanton’s homer was his third in the four-game series and 17th this season.

Plate umpire Mike Muchlinski took a foul tip off his mask in the first inning and staggered back before being grabbed by Yankees catcher Jose Trevino. Muchlinski consulted with a trainer and the rest of the umpiring crew before remaining behind the plate. The game was completed with three umpires.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: SS Jeremy Pena (left thumb) was activated off the injured list. He doubled and scored on Dubon’s single and also made a sharp plate to take a hit away from LeMahieu. … OF Chas McCormick was optioned to Triple-A.

Yankees: LHP Aroldis Chapman (left Achilles tendinitis) was set to make his second rehab appearance with Double-A Somerset, then come off the injured list. … RHP Jonathan Loaisiga (right shoulder inflammation) will throw bullpens Monday and Wednesday before throwing live batting practice next weekend.

UP NEXT

Astros: Have a day off in New York before opening a two-game series against the Mets in Queens on Tuesday night. RHP Luis Garcia (5-5, 3.68) is lined up to start.

Yankees: LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-1, 2.97 ERA) faces Oakland RHP Paul Blackburn (6-3, 2.97) to open a three-game home set.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.