Aaron Judge #99 of the Yankees is hit by a...

Aaron Judge #99 of the Yankees is hit by a pitch during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Yankees’ 2023 season began its steady swirl down the drain last June 3 in Los Angeles when Aaron Judge suffered a sprained right big toe crashing through the bullpen fence in rightfield while making a catch at Dodger Stadium.

The Yankees hope an injury of similar significance isn’t in the offing again and, after Tuesday night’s 4-2 victory over the Orioles, early indications were they could breathe a sigh of relief when it came to their captain.

Judge, baseball’s hottest hitter for well over a month, left the game in the fourth inning, the result of getting hit on the side of his left hand by a 94-mph fastball thrown by Baltimore righthander Albert Suarez in the third inning.

The 2022 American League MVP headed in-game to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for X-rays and a CT scan, and Judge said afterward the imaging had come back “negative.”

“Feeling better after I got some good news,” Judge said. “Big relief. Being hit there [on the hand] before, a couple years ago and breaking the wrist, you never know what’s going to happen. Finding out that it’s not fractured, it’s not broken, is definitely a sigh of relief.”

Judge, who said there is still some swelling in the hand – meaning, once that swelling goes down, the hand will be evaluated again – added he hopes to be in the lineup Wednesday (that would seem unlikely).

“I hope not,” Judge said of potentially missing any games.

Judge, clearly in pain, seemed to take a few steps toward the mound after getting hit, though the centerfielder, in saying he was “pissed” in the moment, did not think Suarez intended to hit him.

“Nobody wants to get hit,” Judge said. “We’re trying to go up there and compete and do our thing. Stuff like that happens. We’ve hit plenty of guys before by accident. Stuff like that happens.”

There was some residual anger in the clubhouse afterward directed at the Orioles as lefthander Keegan Akin hit Gleyber Torres on the left pinkie in the fifth inning (Torres stayed in the game). The home dugout was irate, with some players and staff on the top step screaming at Akin and/or toward the Orioles dugout.

“If you know how to throw the ball in, you can go in any time,” said Juan Soto, who went 0-for-2, but with three walks. “But if you don’t have that much control is when things get a little uncomfortable. But it’s part of the game.”

Said Alex Verdugo: “None of us are too pleased about it but, at the same time, I don’t believe they were intentional. A couple of pitches got away from their guys.”

The injury overshadowed – appropriately – a stellar effort from Nestor Cortes, who threw six scoreless innings against the Orioles (47-25), who now trail the Yankees (51-24) by 2 ½ games in the American League East. Cortes (4-5, 3.36) allowed five hits and struck out six in the outing that saw him throw a season-high 105 pitches.

Michael Tonkin and Luke Weaver got the ball to Clay Holmes, who allowed a two-run homer in the ninth to Anthony Santander but retired three straight to finish it.

Suarez, who came in 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA, allowed three runs, six hits and five walks over 3 2/3 innings.

The Yankees, who had just six hits, saw Anthony Volpe, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu drive in runs as the Bombers built a 4-0 lead through five innings.

Judge referenced his broken wrist from previously in his career, an incident from 2018. That season he missed 45 games with a chip fracture in his right wrist after getting hit by a 93-mph fastball thrown by the Royals’ Jakob Junis.

After getting hit Tuesday, Judge was tended to at first base and stayed in the game, even playing the field in the top of the fourth before getting pinch hit for in the bottom half of the inning by Trent Grisham.

Aaron Boone, who missed the start of the game as he attended the high school graduation of his son, Brandon, earlier in the day, was in his car en route to Yankee Stadium when Judge was hit. Boone happened to be on the phone with GM Brian Cashman, who gave the manager the play-by-play.

“Obviously, I never like any of our players getting hit and Judgie’s as tough as they come,” Boone, speaking after the game but before Judge disclosed the test results, said of his feeling at the time. “So hearing that he was grimacing a little bit and in some pain, obviously your concern level jumps and then [him] coming out of the game. We’ll see what we have. Not a good feeling.”

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