A single leap . . .
. . . a mighty swing . . .
. . . And then a mightier swing.
That’s how Aaron Judge followed up Thursday’s walk-off home run in Friday night’s 11-5 Yankees victory over the Royals before 42,481 at Yankee Stadium.
He scaled the right-centerfield fence to rob the first batter of the game of a home run.
Two innings later, he hit a 449-foot two-run homer into the left-centerfield bleachers.
Judge (3-for-5, six RBIs) concluded his incredible night with a grand slam to right-center to cap an eight-run eighth inning. He has an MLB-best 41 homers.
Judge’s fourth career grand slam was his eighth homer in his last eight games and 11th in his last 13. It gave him 40 homers and 87 RBIs in his last 85 games.
“It’s just a steady dose of amazingness every day,” Gerrit Cole said.
Before anyone could ask him a question in his postgame news conference, Aaron Boone said, “He’s amazing.”
He added, “He’s got 41. It’s July 29th. It’s remarkable.”
Judge is on pace to hit 66 home runs, which would break Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 set 61 years ago in 1961. Would hitting 60 or more mean something to him?
“Not at all,” he said. “I’m not saying not at all, but like I’ve said a thousand times, focus on winning baseball games. The stats and stuff like that, we can talk about that at the end of the year.”
On hitting a homer vs. robbing one: “Oh, they’re close. They’re close. Robbing it, you’ve got the crowd excited, you’re helping out the pitcher . . . Hitting a homer’s still above robbing it for me right now, but it’s still fun getting a chance to do that.”
The Yankees were trailing 5-3 when Judge struck out leading off the eighth against Scott Barlow, the righthander who served up Thursday’s walk-off homer.
Anthony Rizzo followed with a shift-beating infield single to the left side. Gleyber Torres lined a single to center and Josh Donaldson reached on an error by rookie shortstop Maikel Garcia to load the bases.
Andrew Benintendi picked up his first hit and RBI as a Yankee on a grounder that was fielded by diving first baseman Nick Pratto, who had no one to throw to as Barlow never moved to cover first. That made it 5-4.
Aaron Hicks then was erroneously ruled to have been hit in the foot with a pitch by plate umpire Chris Guccione. The call was overturned by replay. Hicks ended up with a score-tying walk on a 3-and-2 pitch.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead with a single to left. That extended his hitting streak to 15 games in which he has had a plate appearance.
Jose Trevino drove in another run with a soft groundout. DJ LeMahieu walked against Jackson Kowar before Judge hit his grand slam to make it 11-5.
Trailing 3-0 with two outs in the fifth, the Royals staged an improbable rally with the help of some shoddy Yankees defense.
Garcia singled and Nicky Lopez drilled a one-hopper that ate up Kiner-Falefa for another single. MJ Melendez, who had a home run stolen by Judge in the first, followed with a grounder to first. Rizzo had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and Cole was a little late covering. First-base umpire Jordan Baker erroneously called Melendez out, but the call was overturned by replay to load the bases.
Whit Merrifield then lined a two-run single over Rizzo’s leaping try and the Royals went ahead 5-3 when Salvador Perez launched a three-run home run into the loading dock area in left-center. Rizzo had homered into the same spot in the first to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
Two innings later, Judge became the third Yankee to hit 40 homers by July 29. Babe Ruth hit 41 by that date in 1928 and Maris hit 40 by July 29, 1961.
It took just four pitches on Friday for Judge to hear the “MVP” chants again as he used his entire 6-7 frame to steal a home run from Melendez. Judge leaped in front of two tykes with gloves who tried to catch the ball from the first row of the stands and was able to hold on to the ball in the tip of his glove after crashing to the warning track.