NEW YORK -- Gleyber Torres chuckled as he recounted the day-old memory of Gary Sanchez sauntering along the Yankees’ bench, a multihomer performance having established his place as the club’s new home run leader. Those boasts came on a rare evening of rest for the young infielder, and Torres promised his teammate that he’d catch up soon enough.
Torres kept his word, slugging a fourth-inning drive over the wall to equal Sanchez with his 34th home run. Aaron Judge also went deep as the Yankees continued to feast upon home cooking, logging yet another series victory with a 4-1 win over the Rangers on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
“It's a pretty fun competition. I'm happy,” Torres said. “Gary, he does a really good job. I’m doing a little bit too. I'm just happy and enjoying helping my team.”
Judge’s two-run shot in the third inning -- his 20th of an injury-shortened campaign -- and Torres’ solo blast both came off former Yankee Lance Lynn, boosting the club to a season-high 43 games over .500 at 92-49.
By taking two of three from Texas, New York improved to 18-0-3 in its last 21 home series. The Yanks haven’t dropped a set in the Bronx since April 12-14, to the White Sox.
“A lot of different guys that have stepped up in different roles, and I think that's what has helped us be so consistent,” Judge said. “Guys come up here and they're hungry, and they want to go out and play. When you've got 25 guys doing that every single night, it's usually going to go your way.”
One hundred days shy of his 23rd birthday, Torres joined Alex Rodriguez (42 homers in 1998, 36 in ’96) as the only middle infielders in Major League history to slug at least 34 homers in their age-22 season or younger. Torres has hit 11 homers in his last 22 games.
“He’s a smart player that wants to be great at this,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He just continues to really improve at everything in the game. It’s not just 34 homers and all the offense that speaks for itself, but the little things he continues to get better at as well.”
The Yankees improved to 13-2 when utilizing an opener, with Chad Green having made 13 of those starts, and Boone said that the club could try the strategy in the postseason.
Though it can be argued that James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Domingo German and J.A. Happ give the Yanks a solid stable of starters for a playoff series, an opener could be a preferred way to utilize Luis Severino’s right arm, given his relative lack of stamina.
“That kind of scenario is certainly possible,” Boone said. “We’ll just see. We’ve got to see how this month unfolds and see how Sevy and Dellin [Betances] are potentially getting back and fit into the mix, where they’re at. It’s something that would certainly be on the table for us, because it is a way we can go and feel like we can really be effective.”
Green hurled a pair of scoreless innings as the opener, giving way to Luis Cessa, who fired three scoreless frames before handing the ball off to the back end of the bullpen. Cessa has pitched 10 consecutive scoreless innings, spanning five appearances.
“Cessa’s had a really good year,” Boone said of the righty, who owns a 3.82 ERA in 73 innings. “He had a handful of outings in there in May where he was struggling a little bit, but for the most part, he’s been a guy who’s thrown the ball really well for us in some different roles.”
During the Yankees’ recent series in Seattle, Sanchez opined that 30 homers is within reach for Judge, who missed 54 games with a left oblique strain but has now homered in seven of his last 12 contests. Judge has reached 20 homers for the third consecutive season, and he agreed that 30 is in play.
“Oh yeah. That's the goal,” Judge said. “I've got to keep chasing him and Gleyber. I've got to find out what they're eating over there. They're not sharing with me.”
Two innings after Judge’s deep drive opened the scoring, the outfielder’s strong right arm cut down Ronald Guzman attempting to stretch a leadoff single into a double. Guzman lingered at second base, hoping for the Rangers to challenge, but all video evidence showed that he had come off the bag. It was Judge’s sixth assist of the year.
“I work on it every day to try to make plays like that,” Judge said. “I think he was safe until Didi [Gregorius] had that tag on him. Props to Didi for getting us that out. Defense is one of the most important things about this game. That's what championship teams are about. The teams that make it far into the postseason and get to the World Series are teams that don't give up extra outs.”