Yankees fans among the holiday crowd of 38,446 in the Bronx on Monday afternoon got to welcome back Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, got to boo former Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, and then got to see what most of them probably showed up for in the first place:
Another Aaron Judge home run.
A majestic, no-doubt Aaron Judge home run.
A go-ahead Aaron Judge home run in the sixth inning of the Yankees’ 5-2 victory over the Twins that put him seven home runs behind Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 with 27 games to play.
Judge broke a 2-2 tie with home run No. 54, a blast into the second deck in leftfield that left his bat at 109.6 mph and traveled an estimated 404 feet.
“It’s just fun to show up and watch him play every day,” starter Jameson Taillon said. “One swing of the bat can change a game every time he’s up there.”
Judge homered for the third consecutive game. This one came off righthander Trevor Megill, the brother of Mets pitcher Tylor Megill.
Judge is 11-for-23 (.478) with five home runs in his last seven games. Since a nine-game homerless stretch, he has hit eight in his last 13 games.
“Man, it just gets more and more amazing what he’s doing,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It really does. Doesn’t get pitched to much and just ready when it is in there. It’s getting hard to put into words what he’s doing.”
Judge, whose pace projects to 65, tied Alex Rodriguez (2007) for the most home runs by a Yankees righthanded batter. He conceivably could threaten Barry Bonds’ all-time (but generally considered tainted) home run mark of 73 from 2001.
Judge doesn’t really concern himself with any of that, not while the season is going on. He is laser-focused on how he helped the Yankees to their second victory in a row, going 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs scored.
“I do what I can every single day,” he said. “I show up to work prepared, ready to go, and do whatever it takes to help our team get a win today. That’s moving a guy over, driving a guy in, making a play on defense. That’s what I’m focused on. All the individual awards, accolades, stats you kind of get throughout the year, it’s all based on how well you help the team out.”
Later, asked how he can not think about Maris’ mark, Judge said: “It’s just not important. What’s important to me is winning. Winning this division first off and putting our team in a good position going into the postseason. It’s not all about me. No matter what happens, if I go 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, it’s not about me. One guy can’t win or lose a ballgame. All the accolades, all the records, stuff like that, that’s awesome. But I’m focused on today we came out here, played a great ballgame, a lot of guys contributed, got the win, and that’s what I’m going to talk about.”
The Yankees improved to 112-39 against the Twins since 2002 and 22-2 since 2015 in the Bronx (both including the postseason).
Bay Shore native Greg Weissert picked up his second big-league win in five appearances with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Marwin Gonzalez and Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit solo home runs.
Taillon, who left his last start after getting hit in the right forearm by a line drive, allowed two runs in five innings. Those runs came on a breathtaking 473-foot home run by Sanchez to the back of the leftfield bleachers in the third.
“That’s probably the longest one I’ve hit here at Yankee Stadium,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “For that reason, it’s memorable. But if it would have helped the team win, it would have been better. But it’s up there.”
It was the first game back for Sanchez and Urshela since the Yankees traded them to Minnesota in the deal that netted them Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson. Sanchez and Urshela were honored in a video tribute before the bottom of the second. Urshela heard cheers and Sanchez was mostly booed throughout the game.
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the first against Chris Archer when Judge doubled to right-center with one out and scored on Donaldson’s single off the leftfield wall. Donaldson, who watched the drive and even then did not run hard out of the box, stumbled after accelerating and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Gonzalez, a surprise starter at first base with Anthony Rizzo injured and DJ LeMahieu resting, hit his fourth home run with one out in the third to make it 2-0.
After Judge gave the Yankees a two-run advantage, Kiner-Falefa added his second home run in the seventh to make it 5-2.