Yankees HR barrage in 10-4 win opens 5 1/2-game lead over Rays

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

NEW YORK — The Yankees took several deep breaths and exhaled.

An AL East lead that stretched to 15 1/2 games in early July was down to 3 1/2 after Friday, increasing heart rates and blood pressures of a frazzled fanbase.

With Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hitting 1-2 atop the batting order for the first time all season, New York romped to consecutive blowouts of the Tampa Bay Rays that restored the lead to 5 1/2 games with 3 1/2 weeks remaining.

“It just feels like a little bit more relaxed because we don’t have all the pressure,” Torres said after homering twice and driving in four runs – in the first two innings – of Sunday’s 10-4 rout.

Stanton homered for the second straight day and Oswaldo Cabrera hit the first of his big league career during a seven-run, second inning barrage that boosted the lead to 10-1. The Yankees outscored the second-place Rays by a combined 20-7 over the final two games.

“They hit a glitch at a part of season,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I feel like we’ve played them well here as of late, obviously, not the last two days.”

Before Sunday, New York had started an unchanged batting order only on Aug. 12-13 at Boston. Judge, considered the MVP front-runner, had been walked seven times in four games before the new configuration.

“Two wrecking balls to start it off,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Saturday, “I want them up, and I want to try and get Judge in the best position to have a little bit of protection but have our guys behind him knowing he’s going to be on base with our best chance to score.”

Judge had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and went 1 for 4, leaving him with major league bests of 55 homers and 121 RBIs along with a .307 batting average,

Stanton’s homers this weekend were his first since July 15 and raised his total to 26.

Josh Donaldson returned from paternity leave Saturday, Jose Trevino is due back Tuesday, Harrison Bader started a rehab assignment Sunday, and Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu hope to be over their injuries later this month.

“To get a couple more guys back in the mix and back in the lineup obviously is huge,” Boone said, “and hopefully as we go, that continues to happen.”

With the Yankees wearing NYPD and FDNY caps on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the game started after a 1-hour, 47-minute rain delay. Ten of New York’s first 14 batters reached, with Torres hitting a three-run homer in the first and a solo drive in the second, both off Luis Patino (1-2).

Stanton had an opposite-field, three-run homer to right in the second. Torres connected to cap a 10-pitch at-bat for his 21st homer this year and 12th career multihomer game. The Yankees have 15 sets of back-to-back homers this season, their most since 1957.

Cabrera, playing his 23rd big league game, greeted Calvin Faucher with a two-run homer to deep right. He’s giving the ball to the family of his brother’s wife.

“They are like a father and mother. She is like my sister, too,” Cabrera said.

Domingo German started on three days’ rest as New York juggled because of Wednesday’s rainout and was pulled after one inning and 14 pitches. Wandy Peralta (3-4), the third of eight pitchers, allowed one hit over 2 1/3 innings.

After winning the season series against the Rays 11-8, the Yankees (85-56) have 21 games remaining: six against Boston, four vs. Texas, three each against Milwaukee, Toronto and Baltimore, and two against Pittsburgh – only the Blue Jays, Orioles and Brewers have winning records.

Tampa Bay (78-60) has 24 games left: nine against Toronto, six against AL-best Houston plus three each against the Rangers, Boston and Cleveland.

“I try not to get caught up in it,” Boone said. “By definition it feels better, but we got, whatever, 20 or so to go, and we’ve to get ourselves right and whole and play our best.”

9-11 REMEMBRANCE

Judge’s left cleat said “9/11 Patriot Day” on the back and the right “9 – 11 – 01.

German received cheers when he ran to the bullpen to warmup while holding high an American flag in his right hand. He was inspired by watching Sammy Sosa running with a flag in the Chicago Cubs’ first home game following the attacks.

“It was a way to show support to the country, to the people, the victims, and today I felt like it was a good way to kind of replicate that and show that horrific event, you remember what happened, and that it’s close to your heart,” German said through a translator. ”

SHORT DAY

Pitino (1-2) gave up nine runs, five hits and four walks in 1 1/3 innings his ERA rising to 8.10.

ON THE FARM

CF Jasson Dominguez homered from both sides of the plate Saturday night for Class A Hudson Valley at Wilmington.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: Bader, sidelined since June 26 by plantar fasciitis in his right foot, went 1 for 3 with an RBI single and stolen base as a DH for Double-A Somerset in his first game in the Yankees organization. LHP Aroldis Chapman (leg infection) struck out the side around a walk in the fourth, LHP Zack Britton (Tommy John surgery) struck out two in a 1-2-3 fifth and RHP Miguel Castro (strained right shoulder) pitched a perfect sixth. … 2B DJ LeMahieu (inflamed right second toe) hopes to return during the homestand from Sept. 20-25.

UP NEXT

Rays: Open a five-game series at Toronto on Monday.

Yankees: RHP Gerrit Cole (11-7 3.20) starts a series opener at Boston on Tuesday on five days’ rest, opposed by RHP Nick Pivetta (9-11, 4.29).

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
2 Comments

TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.