New York Yankees' Aaron Judge, right, celebrates with teammate Alex...

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge, right, celebrates with teammate Alex Verdugo after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Saturday, May 25, 2024, in San Diego. Credit: Gregory Bull

SAN DIEGO — Juan Soto has heard “MVP!” chants at Yankee Stadium pretty much all season.

When the Yankees return home after this three-city, nine-game West Coast trip, Stadium fans might have to be more specific, because Aaron Judge has more than put himself in that category.

The 2022 American League MVP has been blistering baseballs for the better part of a month, and Judge’s torrid streak continued Saturday night in the Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Padres in front of a sellout crowd of 44,845 at Petco Park.

The Yankees, who received yet another gem from one of their rotation members as Marcus Stroman allowed three hits in six scoreless innings, are an American League-best 37-17. They’ve won 12 of their last 15.

Judge has led the way in many of those, including Saturday night, when he hit his 11th home run in the last 19 games. His two-run shot in the first inning was his team-leading 17th home run. It was the fourth straight game in which Judge went deep, and he also doubled in the fourth.

That made Judge, at that point, 36-for-90 (.400) with 13 homers, 12 doubles, 23 walks and 26 RBIs in his last 27 games. He finished the night 2-for-4 and is hitting .280 with a 1.050 OPS overall.

“That ball was absolutely hammered,’’ Aaron Boone said of the home run. “I thought [Dylan] Cease was really good for them, and from the side you just felt like, ‘Man, this is a guy we’re facing with great stuff tonight.’ Felt like he was on, and Judgie just drops the hammer there in the first inning . . . What Aaron’s doing is just what the greats do from time to time.”

Said Stroman: “Just watching greatness. Sometimes you can take it for granted, to be honest. But like I’ve said, this is something I’ll be sitting with my grandkids at some point saying I got the opportunity to play with Aaron Judge and Juan Soto and Gerrit Cole, because those are going to be three of the best players to ever play this game.”

Stroman, who faced Judge plenty in the AL East while with the Blue Jays, said of pitching to him when he’s hot like this: “He’s incredibly hard to pitch to. Obviously, he’s a big presence in the box, but when he’s on time, [it] just feels like he’s all over every single pitch you throw, and then he’s laying off the bad pitches out of the zone.”   

Stroman (4-2, 2.76), who walked one and struck out five, helped the Yankees’ rotation improve upon its already stellar numbers. The group entered the night with an AL-best 2.79 ERA (second in the big leagues) and is the only rotation in the majors in which the starters have completed at least four innings in each of the first 54 games.

The Padres (27-28) avoided being on the other end of the Yankees’ third straight shutout when Fernando Tatis Jr. homered off Luke Weaver in the eighth to make it 4-1. Clay Holmes struck out one in a perfect ninth for his 15th save in 17 chances.

Anthony Volpe (2-for-5) lined Cease’s first pitch of the game, a 96-mph fastball, to center to extend his hitting streak to 18 games. It is the longest hitting streak by a Yankee since Volpe’s childhood hero, Derek Jeter, hit in 19 straight games in 2012.

Soto flied to left to bring up Judge, who fell behind 0-and-2. But Cease hung a curve and Judge crushed a drive at 113.7 mph that traveled 429 feet into the second deck in left for a 2-0 lead.

Judge entered the night with 11 doubles and 10 homers in the month of May, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to have at least 10 doubles and 10 homers in a calendar month and the first to do so since Jason Giambi had 10 and 10 in May 2002.

According to baseball researcher Katie Sharp, Judge is the only player since at least 1901 with at least 12 doubles and at least 11 home runs in any 20-game span.

“It’s crazy,’’ Alex Verdugo said. “He’s a different animal and he’s somebody, he just needs to touch it and the ball jumps off just way different than other guys. He’s locked in . . . He’s special, man. He’s the captain for a reason, he got paid what he did for a reason. He goes about everything that he does the right way. Guys love him, whether you’re on his team, whether you’re on the opposing team, you just love this guy. He’s a superstar that I feel like a lot of kids and a lot of people should try to model their game after.”

Judge led off the fourth with a double down the leftfield line. Verdugo stung a single to left and Anthony Rizzo’s single to right made it 3-0. Gleyber Torres added a sacrifice fly to center.

Jake Cronenworth tripled to right to start the bottom of the fourth, but Stroman stranded him. Manny Machado lined out, David Peralta flied out and Jackson Merrill struck out swinging at a splitter.

Judge said of the rotation: “I feel like they’re feeding off each other, just trying to kind of one-up the next guy . . .  As an offense, you see that and you feed off that and know that ‘hey, if we can get a couple of runs early, get our guy comfortable, he’s going to keep cruising.’ It’s been impressive to see what our starters are doing.”

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