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Judge hits 1st '19 HR ... then smashes another

Frazier's first home run since 2017 lifts Yankees late
@BryanHoch
April 7, 2019

BALTIMORE -- The Yankees do not apologize for the formula with which their lineup has been constructed, centered around the concept of patience and power. When they see pitches -- and more importantly, when they hit home runs -- they will win. That held true Saturday evening, as Aaron Judge

BALTIMORE -- The Yankees do not apologize for the formula with which their lineup has been constructed, centered around the concept of patience and power. When they see pitches -- and more importantly, when they hit home runs -- they will win.

That held true Saturday evening, as Aaron Judge homered in his first two at-bats and Clint Frazier reclaimed the lead with what was arguably the biggest hit of his brief big league career, a three-run blast in the eighth inning that lifted the Yankees to a 6-4 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

“All week, I feel like I've been trying to go up there and win the game with one swing,” Frazier said. “All I did that at-bat was try to keep my head down and focus on what I was trying to do the entire at-bat, just trying to stick within myself. Sure enough, I got the pitch I wanted. I felt good from the first pitch. I was able to slow the game down a little bit.”

Judge took Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy deep twice to mark his first two long balls of the season, slugging a solo home run in the first inning and a two-run shot in the third, tallying a Statcast-calculated 830 feet of dingers with the pair of mighty cuts. New York trailed in the eighth until Frazier rescued it with a blast off Miguel Castro, his first homer since 2017.

"I just tried to get something out over the plate," Judge said. "The past couple of starts, [Bundy] tried to attack me and get ahead early. The first two pitches I swung at, I wanted to try and mash that and stay ready. He's going to come after you. That's the type of pitcher he is. He's going to put it all on the line. I got lucky on a couple."

New York trailed in the eighth until Frazier sent a Miguel Castro slider into the left-field seats, marking the outfielder’s first homer since July 28, 2017. Frazier missed most of last year due to the effects of a concussion sustained in February, and he agreed that Saturday's homer seemed more meaningful than a walk-off shot he hit against the Brewers during his rookie campaign.

"That's huge, man," manager Aaron Boone said. "That's a tough customer when you’re facing Castro there. He can make you look bad with his stuff. With two strikes, [Frazier] didn’t give and he got a hanger. He showed off the power that I think you guys have all seen that he possesses."

Even with a lineup depleted by injuries, the Yankees are living on the strength of the long ball. Of their 34 runs scored, 22 have come via home runs (64.7 percent). In 2018, the Yankees scored a Major League-leading 50.8 percent of their runs via homers.

“If you hit a single or you hit a homer, you're still driving guys in from scoring position,” Judge said. “It really doesn't matter if it's a single or a homer. Just get some runs on the board, that's about it.”

Saturday’s outcome was in jeopardy after the Yankees wasted an opportunity in the sixth, then took a questionable route through their bullpen in the seventh. Gary Sanchez was picked off third base with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth, followed by Frazier coming off the bench to strike out and Giovanny Urshela grounding out in his first New York at-bat.

"We gave away too many outs -- defensively, on the bases," Boone said. "But one thing our guys do really well is compete, and I thought they did that really well tonight in so many ways."

After taking over for starter J.A. Happ in the fifth, Jonathan Holder was still in to begin the seventh, but he hit Cedric Mullins and allowed a single to Jonathan Villar before exiting. Boone explained that he was trying to stay away from using Zack Britton, who had pitched in three of the last four games.

Facing Adam Ottavino, pinch-hitter Chris Davis knocked the tying run home with a fielder’s choice -- first baseman Greg Bird bobbled the ball, did not step on first base and threw home too late to get Mullins -- and Rio Ruiz came off the bench to give Baltimore its first lead with a sacrifice fly.

It was not the most crisp night all around for the Yanks, as Happ lasted 4 1/3 innings and Gleyber Torres was doubled off in the fourth for not touching second base while retreating to first on a flyout. But Frazier’s big swing pasted over those shortcomings, taking advantage after Castro issued a two-out walk to Torres and DJ LeMahieu lashed a single to right field.

"That just shows his mental toughness, coming up in another big situation when the game is on the line," Judge said. "He produced for us, and that's what that kid does. He comes up in big moments for us. That's why we're excited to have him up there."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.