As giddy as the Yankees were after Brett Gardner’s 11th-inning home run decided Thursday night’s 6-5 victory over the Rays, the ensuing fallout had players wondering who was to blame for Aaron Judge getting a front tooth chipped in the walk-off celebration.
The clubhouse had a whodunit feel as the Yankees pored over the YES video on cellphones, trying to determine how someone’s helmet caught Judge squarely in the mouth, causing him to jerk his head back as the players jumped around with Gardner.
“Hopefully he still has all his teeth,” Todd Frazier joked. “Or get some veneers. Either way.”
Here’s what can be seen in the video: After Gardner rounds third and approaches the plate, he takes off his helmet and rolls it like a bowling ball into the crowd of Yankees waiting for him. Once in the middle of the pack, the smiling Gardner has Judge behind him, with Tyler Wade’s No. 39 visible on one side and Clint Frazier on the other.
The part that’s unclear involves the incriminating helmet, which belonged to Gardner but is being held by someone else, maybe Clint Frazier, who vehemently denied it as he bounced between lockers afterward. Gardner, too.
“I guess my helmet hit him a little bit in the face,” Gardner said. “But I threw it off the ground. It wasn’t my fault.”
Judge didn’t come out to his locker after the victory, but the Yankees described the injury as a chipped tooth and said he will be available for Friday night’s game against the Rays.
A day earlier, Judge didn’t play because Joe Girardi wanted to give him a breather, partly because he slammed into the rightfield wall during the previous night’s game.
Despite having the build of an NFL tight end in a non-contact sport, the 6-7, 282-pound Judge has absorbed plenty of punishment during his rookie season. His aggressive pursuit of fly balls occasionally has resulted in jarring collisions with the wall. But no one could have imagined that the most dangerous incident would involve a walk-off celebration in a raucous scrum in which Judge was the biggest player.
It wasn’t a great night overall for Judge, who went 1-for-5 with a strikeout and is batting .174 (8-for-46) since the All-Star break. Now Judge has Toothgate to contend with, and probably a date with a dentist this morning before showing up at Yankee Stadium.