Aaron Judge recused himself from all the excitement bubbling over his 495-foot home run against the Orioles on Sunday, a shot that went over the bleachers in left-centerfield and landed close to the backdrop of the team’s retired numbers. And that was only the first of his two homers against the Orioles in a 14-3 victory that gave the AL East-leading Yankees five straight wins and the continuation of a run-producing bonanza.
Judge is the most exciting Yankees rookie since Gary Sanchez, embodied in a 6-7, 282-pound frame with power reminiscent of Mickey Mantle. Mantle wasn’t one for self-aggrandizement, and Judge is following directly in those footsteps.
Judge said of his titanic homer, “It means nothing, to be honest. I’m just glad it came with a win.’’ His 4-for-4 performance gave him the American League lead in batting average (.344), home runs (an MLB-leading 21) and RBIs (47).
The home run meant something to his teammates in the dugout, though. Didi Gregorius took off his sunglasses to follow its trajectory, Aaron Hicks put both hands on top of his head and both wore looks of incredulity. “I’ve never seen a ball hit like that in this stadium,’’ Sanchez, who hit a 450-foot home run of his own Sunday, said through his translator on YES. “To me, it was like a thousand feet.’’
The Yankees, who in the past five games have outscored the Red Sox and Orioles 55-9 and gone 69-for-183 (.377) with 17 homers and 12 doubles, are 22-9 at home, the best record in the American League. They tied a club record by hitting at least three homers in four consecutive games and moved four games ahead of the second-place Red Sox (five in the loss column).
Starlin Castro also homered and drove in four runs, Sanchez had three RBIs and Matt Holliday and Aaron Hicks drove in two runs each, but Judge stole the show.
Sanchez, who has gone 9-for-21 with four homers and 13 RBIs in the last five games, hit a three-run homer into the bleachers above the Orioles’ bullpen on Kevin Gausman’s 12th pitch of the game for a 5-0 lead. MLB Statcast said the 450-footer was the longest homer of Sanchez’s career, but it was just the undercard to what Judge produced.
Facing former Met Logan Verrett with one out in the sixth, Judge connected on a 1-and-1 pitch and the Yankees’ dugout erupted along with the sellout crowd of 46,348. The ball went over the bleachers and ricocheted off a fan’s hands on the back concourse in front of the Yankees’ retired numbers, not far from Reggie Jackson’s.“He’s had an unbelievable first 2 1⁄2 months of the season,’’ Joe Girardi said. “The homers are great and the RBIs are great, but I think about his two-strike hits and his discipline, the walks and how he makes pitchers work . . . everything that he does. This is a complete player, and we’re reaping the benefits of it.’’
Reliever Adam Warren, who picked up the victory, always keep tabs on Judge from the bullpen. “Someone’s calling a home run every time he comes up,’’ he said. “It’s a must-see at-bat every time he comes up.’’
In the seventh inning, Judge lined a two-run homer over the auxiliary scoreboard just to the right of the Yankees’ bullpen. “He hit a line drive out to rightfield,’’ Girardi said. “It was just a line drive. For most guys, they’re hoping it gets in the gap. His just went out. His power’s incredible. His ability to use the whole field has been special.’’
After his second home run, Judge’s teammates gave him the silent treatment before relenting. “I have no clue as to why,’’ Judge said of the time-honored tradition in the sport. “I just came in trying to give people high-fives; they won’t give it back.’’
Sanchez, the new face of the franchise last season, has been unseated by Judge for now, but he seems happy to share the spotlight. “I’ve seen him hit homers, right? But that one is just incredible,’’ Sanchez said. “When he hits the ball on a line drive, it just keeps going and going. You get excited about that and then at the same time, you get motivation from that and you want to help out, too. It’s positive energy all around.’’
The Yankees pounded Red Sox and Orioles pitching in the past five games:
Team batting average