New York Yankees' Austin Wells is congratulated after his three-run...

New York Yankees' Austin Wells is congratulated after his three-run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the fourth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann) Credit: AP/Reed Hoffmann

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Austin Wells’ climb through the Yankees’ minor league system saw him quickly tagged as a hit-first catcher, his defense a constant work in progress.

Actually, it was his reputation when the Yankees drafted him 28th overall in the 2020 draft.

In the rookie’s first full season in the majors, his defense has been praised by just about everyone in the organization — by Yankees’ pitchers, most importantly.

The hitting?

At least in the big leagues so far, that’s been the work in progress.

Tuesday night there were signs of positive change on that side of his game.

Wells had two hits, including delivering the most significant blow on a night full of them by the Yankees, breaking open a close game with a three-run homer in the fourth inning of a 10-1 wipeout of the Royals in front of 22,437 at Kauffman Stadium.

Wells’ three-run blast, his second homer of the season, turned a 3-0 lead into a 6-0 one and the Yankees (48-21) coasted from there. The lefty-hitting Wells, who entered the night hitting .200 with a .580 OPS, finished 2-for-4.

“You’ve to step on it here,” Aaron Boone said of Kauffman Stadium, never known as a hitter’s ballpark. “You hit it and ride it out of here like that . . . . That was kind of the knockout right there.”

The Yankees also received home runs from Aaron Judge — who returned to the lineup after his first day off of the season and blasted his 25th homer overall and eighth in his last 11 games — and Giancarlo Stanton.

As impressive as Wells’ blast was – traveling 417 feet – it paled in comparison, and this was not a surprise, to the ones hit by Judge and Stanton.

Judge’s two-run homer, a 436-footer to center, in the seventh made it 9-0. Two batters later, Stanton hammered one 446 feet to center for his 16th homer, which made it 10-0. Stanton’s ball traveled over the three separate walls that lead to the giant scoreboard in center. Both blasts came off righthander Nick Anderson, whom the Yankees have seen plenty of over the years from his time in the Rays bullpen.

“That was pretty impressive, pretty loud,” Judge said with of the Stanton blast. “He was joking with us pregame, saying this is one spot he hasn’t gone dead center yet at. He kind of called his shot I guess tonight.”

The Yankees outhit the Royals (39-29), 10-5, in winning for the 23rd time in their last 30 games.

Judge, who came into the night slashing .399/.520/.957 with 20 homers, 46 RBIs, 42 runs and 35 walks in his previous 40 games, went 2-for-4 to raise his season batting average to .309 and OPS to 1.149.

“It’s just amazing every single day,” Anthony Rizzo, who went 0-for-5 in his return to the lineup after a two-day break that Boone helped would give the veteran first baseman (who did make a spectacular diving play in short right on a tailing ball by Salvador Perez) a mental “reset” as he was in the midst of a 1-for-29 skid that is now 1-for-34, said of Judge. “What he does, who he is, how he handles himself, the way he works, it’s something that I don’t think any of us can take for granted.”

Marcus Stroman, coming off his worst start of the season in terms of runs allowed, threw 5 2⁄3 scoreless innings Tuesday night. The righthander, whose line was aided by Ron Marinaccio striking out Drew Waters with the bases loaded to end the sixth, allowed four hits and three walks in improving to 6-2 with a 2.82 ERA. Stroman, a sinkerballer who gave up a season-high five runs five days earlier against the Twins, struck out one and induced 11 outs on the ground. Marinaccio gave up a garbage-time homer to Freddy Fermin in the eighth to make it 10-1.

Royals righthander Brady Singer, off to a good start to his season (4-2, 2.76 coming into Tuesday), was beaten up over 5 2⁄3 innings, allowing seven runs (six earned), seven hits and a walk. The Yankees scored twice in the first against him, on a Judge RBI single and Stanton RBI groundout, to pave the way to yet another victory.

“The way these guys are swinging, it just makes this game fun,” Stroman said. “It gives everybody more confidence. I feel like everyone’s kind of in their element and everyone’s just riding off one another.”

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