LOS ANGELES — After a lackluster three losses in Oakland to start this trip, Aaron Judge said the Yankees arrived here Friday needing to rebound.
They did in a big way against a team that has been the best in the major leagues all year.
With Domingo German throwing arguably his best game of the season — given the opponent and setting — and his teammates hitting three home runs off Clayton Kershaw, the Yankees beat the Dodgers, 5-1, on Sunday night before 53,828 at Dodger Stadium.
“It’s huge,’’ Judge said. “They’re the best team in the National League and this was a big matchup. That was a good test. One of the best teams in the game. You could tell from the crowd. Fans were loving it, we were loving it. A lot of emotion. It was fun.”
The Yankees (85-47), who lead the AL East by nine games over the Rays, are tied with the Astros for the best record in the American League and are a game behind the Dodgers (86-46) for best record in the majors. They took two of three in a series that featured hyped and loud sellout crowds for all three games.
Said Aaron Boone, “It’s a confident group, period, but I don’t think there’s any question guys were excited to come and play here against a great team in a great venue. I thought the guys really performed and kind of delivered all weekend.”
German allowed a home run by Joc Pederson on his first pitch — matching DJ LeMahieu’s homer on Kershaw’s third pitch — but lifted his record to 17-3. He allowed five hits in six innings, striking out five and walking two.
Judge, who went deep for the third straight game, and Mike Ford also homered. Judge fulfilled a pregame promise to John Brown, the father of Yankees catching coach Jason Brown.
“I’ll get one for you tonight,” Judge was overheard saying on tape to the elder Brown.
“That’s Aaron Judge,’’ Jason Brown said. “That’s who he is. A special moment. Thanks, Aaron.”
The homers gave the Yankees 61 in August, the most ever hit in a calendar month by an MLB club. The previous record was 58. They have five games remaining in the month. “Bronx Bombers. I don’t know what else to say,” Judge said with a smile.
Kershaw (13-3, 2.76) struck out a season-high 12 in seven innings and allowed three runs, four hits and no walks. Ford’s RBI double to left-center off Pedro Baez in the eighth and Gio Urshela’s bloop RBI single to right off Adam Kolarek in the ninth completed the scoring.
The night wasn’t entirely a positive one for the Yankees, however. Didi Gregorius, hit by a pitch in the right shoulder area by Kershaw’s 89-mph fastball in the first inning, left the game in the third. The Yankees later announced that Gregorius has a “right shoulder contusion” and that X-rays were negative. “That’s the good thing,’’ Gregorius said. “So just ice and treatment. Right now day-to-day.”
Ford replaced Gregorius and contributed his two RBIs.
LeMahieu led off the game by waiting on a 1-and-1 curveball and slamming it to left-center for his 22nd homer, giving German the lead before he threw his first pitch. But that first pitch wound up traveling 420 feet, as Pederson crushed a fastball to rightfield for his 26th homer, tying it at 1-1. It was the 28th homer allowed by German in 127 1⁄3 innings.
“Definitely that first inning was a tough one for me,” German said through his interpreter. “I was very excited to pitch here, so maybe I was a little too excited there. It was a matter of just calming myself down and finding a groove, and that’s what I did.”
Judge came through on his pregame promise with two outs in the third, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead by slamming a 1-and-1 curveball to right-center for his 16th homer. Ford launched a first-pitch fastball to rightfield in the sixth for his sixth homer, making it 3-1.
Brett Gardner made a terrific leaping catch with two runners on base to end the third and also singled in the ninth, advanced two bases on a wild pickoff throw and scored on Urshela’s single.
“I think we all, if we’re being honest, looked forward to this series and knew all the eyeballs [on it],” Boone said. “So it’s good to see us . . . even though it’s regular season, it felt big. And to see our guys go out — like in the London series — when you put your best foot forward, when it feels a little bigger, I think it’s always good to see.”