Yankees’ Aaron Judge 1st in majors to 40 home runs

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NEW YORK – Aaron Judge became the first player in the majors with 40 home runs this season with a two-run drive for the New York Yankees against the Kansas City Royals.

The 6-foot-7 Judge robbed a home run from MJ Melendez to begin the game, then hit an estimated 449-foot homer in the third inning for a 3-0 lead. It was his second homer in three at-bats after he hit a game-ending drive in the ninth inning of a 1-0 win against Kansas City on Thursday night.

The four-time All-Star is on pace for 64 home runs in his final season under New York’s control. The club record is 61, set by Roger Maris in 1961. Judge, Maris and Babe Ruth in 1928 are the only Yankees with at least 40 homers by the end of July, per MLB.com.

Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber came into the night second in the majors with 32 homers. Judge hit a career-high 52 homers while winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2017.

In the first inning Friday, the 6-foot-7 Judge jumped and reached over the roughly 8-foot right-field wall to deny Melendez, who put a charge into Gerrit Cole‘s fourth pitch. Judge fell on the warning track after making the grab, and it took him a moment to lift his glove and confirm he’d made the catch. Yankee Stadium erupted when he did.

The leaping snag also extended the Royals’ scoreless streak into a fourth game. They came into Friday with three straight shutouts and hadn’t scored since the eighth inning of a 7-0 win against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.