Judge homers twice as Yanks turn tables on Rays

New York erases 6-run deficit vs. All-Star ace 6 days after Tampa Bay did same

May 13th, 2023

NEW YORK -- There were no hanging heads as the Yankees returned to their dugout in the fifth inning on Saturday afternoon, and at least one player recognized a flipped script from last Sunday’s meltdown against the Rays some 1,200 miles south. There was a six-run deficit, an ace on the mound and these words spoken: “They did it to us. Let’s do it to them.”

With about 25 percent of the schedule complete, it’s unclear how this club will be remembered, but it has shown one encouraging characteristic -- the resolve to punch back.  homered twice and drove in four runs as the Yankees surged from a six-run deficit on Saturday, notching their ninth comeback victory by edging the Rays, 9-8, at Yankee Stadium.

“We’ve got a lot of grinders in this clubhouse,” Judge said. “This was one of the most fun games we’ve played all year. We’re facing the best. They’re bringing it every single night; we’re bringing it every single at-bat. There were a lot of gritty at-bats. It’s fun to be a part of.”

Of the Bombers’ past eight wins, six have been of the come-from-behind variety; Saturday’s was their largest, with their rally against Shane McClanahan and the Rays’ bullpen eclipsing the three-run deficit that New York erased against Cleveland on April 12. As Anthony Rizzo noted, this was a reversal of the stunner absorbed six days earlier, when Gerrit Cole coughed up a six-run lead at Tropicana Field.

“Especially against the Rays, the way they’ve been playing, scratching and clawing with their ace on the mound and down six,” Rizzo said. “We were kind of talking about that in the dugout a little bit. We just had to have good at-bats.”

Spirits have improved markedly from that Cole game at The Trop, buoyed by a 5-1 homestand thus far, with an opportunity to claim a series over the American League East-leading Rays on Sunday. The Yanks have won eight of their past 11 games, helped in no small measure by their 23 home runs this month -- a mark that paces the Majors.

“We’re always in the game, and we’ve battled,”  said. “We were disappointed not to get results last weekend, but it’s really big to get these two games now.”

The bats had to step up after Nestor Cortes fatigued, surrendering six runs over 4 1/3 innings, including Yandy Díaz’s fifth-inning grand slam. Cortes has been befuddled by his struggles the second and third times through the batting order this season; one theory is that it may stem from his spring hamstring injury, which shortened his window to build stamina.

“I’ve got to focus more; I’ve got to work on it,” Cortes said. “Hopefully, I can fix it.”

New York chipped away, producing a four-run frame against McClanahan. Higashioka hit a two-run homer, and Judge reached the right-field seats with his seventh blast of the year, both off McClanahan, who didn’t record an out in the fifth.

"We had to lay off some tough pitches and get ourselves in some good hitters' counts,” Judge said. “We did that, and when he had to come in the zone, we took advantage of it. I think that really got us going there in that one inning, to put some runs up against him. All year and even in the beginning of the game, he was pretty lights out.”

’s elite wheels sparked a five-run sixth. The rookie legged out a bunt single, stole second and third bases, then raced home on a wild pitch -- all while becoming the first Yankee ever to steal his first 13 career bases without being caught, passing Joe DiMaggio, who swiped a dozen straight over the 1936-38 seasons.

Manager Aaron Boone called Volpe’s bunt an “energy play,” even inspiring Rizzo to drop one of his own, stunning reliever Ryan Thompson after Judge sent his second homer of the afternoon into the right-field seats moments earlier.

“We talk about that in our meetings,” Rizzo said. “If you have that in your bag of tricks, why not? I felt the momentum of the game called for that. Everyone was into it.”

Oswaldo Cabrera stroked a two-run single off Javy Guerra to cap a five-run sixth, and though Randy Arozarena knocked Clay Holmes for a broken-bat, two-run single in the seventh, Wandy Peralta navigated a 27-pitch ninth for his second save in as many days.

“That’s what this team is trying to do,” Judge said. “We didn’t get off to the start we wanted to, but all we can control is that next game, that next at-bat, that next pitch.”