The Yankees certainly hope Sunday night was a harbinger of what’s to come in Thursday night’s season opener and beyond.
Aaron Judge hit two home runs, part of a five-homer night by his team, in a 6-0 exhibition victory over the Mets at the Stadium — an evening that included one final dominant outing by rotation shoo-in Jordan Montgomery and pumped-in crowd noise for at-bats by both clubs.
Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton, each of whom is likely to be in the lineup Thursday against the Nationals, added solo blasts.
“He’s worked hard to put himself in a really good spot,” Aaron Boone said of Judge, who missed all of the first spring training with lingering pain from a right rib fracture and collapsed lung. “I feel like he’s on a mission to go out and dominate.”
Montgomery, apparently healthy at last after missing most of 2018 and 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, allowed one hit, walked one and struck out six in four innings.
After Judge’s homer in the first inning, Sanchez’s blast into the second deck in left off Corey Oswalt in the fourth and Voit’s solo shot to center off Drew Smith in the sixth gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Judge’s two-run shot later in the inning made it 5-0. Stanton hit an absolute bomb halfway up the bleachers in left off former Yankee Chasen Shreve in the seventh.
Boone praises Girardi
Since being hired to replace Joe Girardi after the 2017 season, Aaron Boone has never failed to praise his predecessor when his name comes up.
That again was the case Sunday when Boone discussed Girardi’s Yankee Stadium debut as an opposing team manager. Girardi’s Phillies will visit the Bronx on Monday night for each team’s exhibition finale.
“I often say, I walked into a situation that was such a good situation to walk into, and I think a big reason for that is the foundation that Joe had laid for his number of years here,” Boone said.
Girardi, hired during the offseason by the Phillies, went 910-710 in 10 seasons with the Yankees from 2008-17, winning the World Series in 2009. Under Girardi, the Yankees went to the playoffs six times, won three AL East titles and captured one AL pennant and World Series.
Boone, however, said he was most impressed with Girardi during some of the playoff-less seasons such as 2013, 2014 and 2016 when the Yankees, who were transitioning to a younger roster, still managed to stay in contention for a playoff spot until the final weeks of those seasons. The worst records in any of those seasons was the 84-78 marks put up in 20014 and 2016.
“There’s always the expectation that comes with putting this uniform on,’’ Boone said. “but I think there were some tough years in there where there were some transitional years and I recall when I was with ESPN a lot of times, kind of from afar, being really impressed with the job he was doing when I don’t think his teams were as great as normal.’’
Boone once surprised Girardi with an offseason call thanking the former Yankees manager for the groundwork he had laid: “The way he was able to handle a bullpen and run things.”
Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee after being drafted by the club in 2005, made his big-league debut in Girardi’s first season as manager.
“Joe I don’t want to say [was] like a second father to me, but as much time as we spend at the ballpark, I’ve only played for two managers, Joe and Aaron, so I was with Joe for 10 years,” Gardner said.
“Getting my opportunity to play and make my debut with him and obviously win a World Series with him and to just go through the grind of a season with him for 10 years, it was a lot of fun.”
Gardner described his time with Girardi as “a really good run that we had together.”
He added, “Obviously, wish it would have resulted in one or two more championships over the course of it, but we put in a lot of work together and I definitely miss him.
“Boonie has done a good job coming in. I I think both have a lot of the same qualities. Both very personable and both do a great job of just controlling the clubhouse and commanding a great deal of respect in their own way. It’ll be good to see Joe, even though he’s over there on the other side.”
Aaron Hicks, meanwhile, made his big-league debut with the Twins in 2013. Seen as never quite fulfilling his potential as a first-round draft pick (14th overall) in 2008, Hicks was traded to the Yankees for John Ryan Murphy in November 2015.
It was under Girardi in 2016 that Hicks, then 26, at last received everyday playing time.
“He was kind of just trying to give me opportunities,” Hicks said. “I felt like [he] gave me a lot of opportunities to play and really show the organization that I am who they traded for.”