Aaron Judge brought the gavel down on the Red Sox on Sunday night, sentencing them to a 9-7 loss at the Stadium that gave the Yankees their sixth straight win.
Judge, who has become the most dominating player in MLB this season, hit a tiebreaking two-out, two-run homer into the left-centerfield bleachers in the eighth inning. The 468-foot shot was his second home run of the night and fifth RBI. In his last five games, he has six home runs and 13 RBIs, with at least one homer in each game.
“He’s in a groove right now, and I’m excited to see what he can do in 60 games this year with how he’s raking right now,” said Luke Voit, who also homered. “It’s a guy that you don’t want to take your eyes off of when he’s in the box.”
Judge is the first Yankee since Alex Rodriguez in 2007 to hit home runs in five straight games. The only Yankees with longer streaks are Don Mattingly (eight) and Lou Gehrig and Roger Maris (six each).
“He’s on a mission right now,” manager Aaron Boone said before referencing the broken rib and punctured lung that plagued Judge during the first spring training. “When he got that clean bill of health right before summer camp started and he started ramping up, there’s just been an intensity level to his work and energy level to the work he’s been able to do. And he’s just a great player that you can tell is feeling really good and I think continuing to actually get all the way locked in at the plate.”
Judge didn’t disagree with Boone’s choice of words. “Every year we’re on a mission: to go out there and win as many games as you can,” he said. “The past couple years, just thinking about playoffs and not getting to the final goal that we wanted to get to. Now it’s time to get this thing rolling . . . [If] we just keep trying to win today, I think it’s going to add up at the end of the year.”
Rafael Devers’ solo homer off Mike King in the seventh put Boston up 7-6. DJ LeMahieu tied it moments before Judge came to the plate, lacing a single to center to drive in Mike Tauchman, who had drawn a two-out walk and stolen second.
The Yankees trailed 2-0, 5-3, 6-5 and 7-6. Still, LeMahieu said, “We kind of had the feeling we’re going to win, we’re going to push in front at some point.”
He added, “This whole group of players I’ve been here with, we’ve just kind of had that mentality, and even when you know things are looking down, I feel like we are very positive and very focused, maybe even a heightened focus when we have tough situations ahead of us. [It’s] a special group, more than just talent but a special bond that helps us win games like we did tonight.”
Each team hit three home runs in the game, all with two outs. Xander Bogaerts (4-for-4) homered twice and drove in three runs for the Red Sox (3-7).
Gio Urshela was 3-for-4 to raise his average to .308 for the Yankees (7-1), who have hit 17 home runs in eight games.
Judge’s first home run of the night was a three-run shot into the second deck in leftfield in the second inning that put the Yankees up 3-2. At that point, home runs had accounted for the last 20 Yankees runs. Voit homered to tie the score at 6-6 in the fifth.
Starter James Paxton, whom the Yankees are counting on as one of their top three starters, was substandard for the second time in as many starts. His fastball lacked its typical velocity as he gave up five runs (three earned) in three innings. He allowed seven hits — many of them well-struck — and fanned four. In his first start, he allowed three runs in one inning-plus.
Paxton put the Yankees in an early hole, giving up J.D. Martinez’s double off the centerfield wall and Bogaerts’ two-run homer in the first inning.
The first inning was a serious issue for Paxton last season. In his 29 starts, he allowed 29 first-inning runs, including 12 of the 23 homers he gave up in 2019.
Boone said Paxton “is really searching for it” and added, “I think he’s frustrated that it’s not coming out like he’s capable of. It’s a little bit mechanically related . . . . getting all those parts in sync that make him special.”
After his first start, the lefthander said he had identified a mechanical issue that was causing his arm angle not to be high enough, resulting in pitches that reached the plate on the wrong plane. There is more work to be done.
Said Paxton, “I’m concerned that I can’t figure out what’s going on. I just don’t know.”