The Yankees fought tooth-and-nail to beat the Royals in the first two games of their weekend series, needing Aaron Judge’s walk-off homer to break a scoreless tie in the ninth inning Thursday night and receiving two more blasts by Judge in a comeback victory Friday night.
There was no drama of any kind Saturday afternoon, though. The Yankees received yet another Judge home run, also watched DJ LeMahieu and Matt Carpenter go deep and took advantage of a dreadful afternoon by the Royals in an 8-2 win in front of 44,081 at the Stadium.
“I think we’ve continued to have some good at-bats this series,” said Aaron Boone, whose team had lost 10 of its previous 15 entering this four-game set. “We’ve had a couple innings where we’ve taken advantage of some breaks and mistakes and really capitalized.”
Judge hit his MLB-leading 42nd homer — and 200th of his career — and lifted his MLB-leading RBI total to 91.
“It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of people [helping] over the years to get to this point,” said Judge, who became the second-fastest to reach 200 career homers (in his 671st game, trailing Ryan Howard’s 658). “Excited to get that one out of the way. Plus we got a win, so just keep it rolling.”
Judge, who reached base four times (he also singled and walked twice), has nine homers in his last nine games. He became the first Yankee to hit 12 homers in a 14-game span, according to YES, and has 41 homers and 89 RBIs in his last 86 games.
Judge broke a tie with Babe Ruth for the most homers by a Yankee before August. He is on pace to hit 67, which would break Roger Maris’ American League mark of 61 set 61 years ago in 1961.
Nestor Cortes, though not especially sharp, improved to 9-3 with a 2.53 ERA after allowing two runs and five hits in five innings in which he struck out five and walked two. The Royals (39-62) threw the ball all over the Bronx, committing three errors. Each error led to or resulted directly in runs by the Yankees.
It took the Yankees (69-33) all of three pitches to take the lead for good. LeMahieu blasted his 10th homer, a 410-foot shot off Jonathan Heasley (1-6, 5.82) into the centerfield side of the Yankees’ bullpen. LeMahieu (3-for-5, two RBIs) has reached base at least once in 29 of his last 30 starts, hitting .330 (38-for-115) in the stretch.
Judge singled, Andrew Benintendi drew the first of his three walks and Gleyber Torres slammed an RBI double off the wall in right-center to make it 2-0. Heasley limited the damage, though, as Josh Donaldson struck out swinging and Aaron Hicks grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, falling to 9-for-62 with the bases loaded.
“I think overall, when you score early, it gives you [as a pitcher] that cushion,” Cortes said. “You’re able to attack more.”
Judge made it 4-0 in the second with a two-run homer just over the wall in right-center. At that point, he had 22 hits in his last 44 at-bats.
The Royals scored once in the third and once in the fourth to make it 4-2, but their incompetence in the field helped the Yankees extend the lead in the bottom of the fourth.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa reached with one out when shortstop Maikel Garcia dropped a routine pop-up. Jose Trevino then grounded to third baseman Nicky Lopez for what should have been a 5-4-3 double play, but second baseman Whit Merrifield dropped the relay throw for an error. LeMahieu’s RBI single to center made it 5-2 and ended Heasley’s afternoon.
Righty Wyatt Mills had the unenviable task of facing Judge, who walked on five pitches to load the bases for Benintendi, a Royal until late Wednesday night. His sacrifice fly made it 6-2.
The Yankees added a run in the sixth as Kiner-Falefa led off with a walk, went to second on a balk, stole third and scored on Salvador Perez’s wild throw into leftfield. Carpenter’s blast to right in the seventh made it 8-2 and gave him 15 homers and 36 RBIs in 28 starts.
“It’s good to break through with some big innings here these last two days,” Boone said. “We had some games there where we didn’t score a ton, but I felt like we were close from an at-bat standpoint. It’s good to push through these last two.”