The case for Aaron Judge’s MVP offer is only getting worse – and so is his price.
Judge continued his monster season Friday night, with his bat and glove, to lead the Yankees to an 11-5 win over the Royals in the Bronx.
After starting the game by denying MJ Melendez a home run in the first inning, Judge smashed his 40th and 41st home runs of the season – the second a grand slam to cap an eight-run eighth inning by which the Yankees took over for good.
“Historic,” said Gerrit Cole. “I’ve never seen anything like it, so much, from anyone, really. I don’t think I’ve played with a guy who hit 40 home runs. It’s July. So I’m rooting for him. I wish I could have my phone on the bench like the rest of the fans who take video of each of his shots.
“It’s kind of just a regular dose of amazing every day. Pretty inspiring.
Judge’s first home run, a two-run shot that traveled 449 feet, gave the Yankees (68-33) a 3-0 lead in the third inning. The second went 370 feet and put them ahead 11-5 after going into the eighth end trailing 5-3. The pending free agent has now hit 11 homers in his last 13 games.
Judge became the first Yankee since Roger Maris in 1961 to hit the 40 home run mark before August, and joined Babe Ruth (1928, 1921) as the only players in franchise history with 41 homers in 101 first games of a season.
A night after ending the game with a home run, Judge started the game Friday with a steal. Starting in right field for the first time since July 10, Judge ran for the wall, jumped and used his entire 6-foot-7 frame to reach and bring home what would have been Melendez’s first home run.
“Maybe you should give him three [home runs] tonight,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Maybe we should bump it up to 42 with the flight right out of the gate. Just a special player doing some really amazing things.
While Judge is now on pace for 66 home runs, he’s ignored all of the mind-blowing stats he’s racked up at this point in the season.
“Like I’ve said 1,000 times, my focus is on winning baseball games right now,” Judge said. “Stats and stuff like that, we can talk about at the end of the year.”
After an Isiah Kiner-Falefa defensive error (a hard hopper bounced past him) gave way to a five-run fifth inning by the Royals (39-61) against Cole, the Yankees shortstop found redemption in the eighth inning, after a 23-minute rain delay.
First, after a strikeout from the judge, Anthony Rizzo hit a single downfield and Gleyber Torres scored a single down the middle. Then the Yankees got help from Royals shortstop Maikel Garcia, who missed a potential end-inning double-play ball hit by Josh Donaldson, leaving the bases loaded with one out.
Andrew Benintendi came next and recorded his first hit as a Yankee, an RBI infield single at first base that cut the deficit to 5-4. After Aaron Hicks attempted to argue that he had been hit by a pitch, he ended up plotting a step to drive in the even run.
Kiner-Falefa was then rewarded, ripping a single down the left side to give the Yankees a 6-5 lead and extend his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games.
After Jose Trevino added an insurance run with an RBI groundout, DJ LeMahieu walked to reload the bases. Judge followed with his grand slam, which ended the Yankees’ league-leading 29th win of the year.
“We talked a bit during the rain delay and it locked us all in and brought us back to what we’re doing,” Judge said. “I feel like every year we play every game a little bit better when we have our backs against the wall.”