Aaron Judge bet on himself this spring when he turned down a deal that would have been worth $230 million. The slugger makes it pay and if the Yankees want to keep him, they’re going to pay a high price now. Judge hit two homers on Friday night, including his second Grand Slam of the season, hitting six runs and propelling the Bombers to an 11-5 win over the Royals at The Stadium.
It was the 29th victory from behind of the season for the Yankees (68-33), who maintained the best record in the American League. It was only the sixth time this season that they had come back and won after trailing late in the seventh inning.
The judge’s second of the night, a shot from 370 feet, capped an eight-run, eighth-inning rally, which began when Andrew Benintendi, in his second game as a Yankee, “split,” on a fly ball at the ground to first down the eighth inning to drive in a race. With the bases loaded, Scott Barlow walked into the tie rush for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who scored a single in the go-ahead run.
The 30-year-old judge hit his 40th major league-leading homer in the third inning against Royals southpaw Kris Bubic. The 449-foot shot climbed into left-center field and scored two runs. Number 41, his second, capped the Yankees’ eight-run eighth inning. No other hitter has more than 32 so far.
It happened less than 24 hours after he hit his 39th, a game-winning third career home run. He’s hit five home runs in his last five games, eight in his last eight and 11 in his last 13 games. He’s now on pace to hit 66 homers this season. The franchise record is 61 set in 1961 by Roger Maris and it is still the American League record.
In 2017, when Judge hit his career-high 52 homers en route to winning the American League Rookie of the Year award, he hit his 40th and 41st homers on September 10 in his 142nd game that season. . Friday night was the Yankees’ 101st game and the 98th game he played.
Of the 38 points the Yankees have scored in their last eight games, Judge has been involved in 19 of them.
He also stole a home run on Friday night. MJ Melendez started the game with a ball deep, 357 feet from the right field wall. The judge jumped up and caught him on the very edge of his glove, “snow coning”, to save a run for Gerrit Cole.
It was a dominant season for Judge, who came into play for a contract when he hit the free agent market at the end of the year after turning down an extension offer on opening day.
So far the bet on himself is paying off that he will get money in the quarter the Yankees gave Cole, who has yet to have the impact on this franchise that Judge has.
Cole allowed five earned runs on seven hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out nine. The right-hander was coming off his third loss of the season, having allowed nine hits and three earned runs against the Orioles.
With two outs in the fifth, Cole couldn’t slam the door after a few errors behind him.
Nicky Lopez’s helicopter bounced off the glove of a sliding Kiner-Flaefa in center field for what was ruled a single. On the next play, MJ Melendez hit an infield grounder at first base. Anthony Rizzo lined it up and tried to throw it backhand to Cole first. The Royals receiver beat him. Neither was deemed a mistake, but both were costly.
Whit Merrifield then fielded a single into right field to score two runs and Salvador Perez, playing his first game since June 24 surgery to repair a ligament in his thumb, crushed a 424-foot shot from the Yankees ace . It was the 17th homer Cole allowed this season, seven fewer than his total in 30 starts last season.
Aroldis Chapman, in his new indefinite role, pitched a scoreless sixth inning and Albert Abreu, who was released by the Royals earlier this season, pitched a scoreless eighth inning.