NEW YORK -- There was a brief pep talk within the Yankees’ clubhouse during the half-hour break of Thursday’s doubleheader, after the team had been limited to two hits in an uninspiring afternoon performance. The Yanks had lacked energy, Aaron Judge said, imploring his teammates to be more aggressive at the plate.
Then, Judge showed exactly what he meant, pouncing on a fastball and rattling the glass windows of the restaurant over Monument Park. Judge and Gary Sánchez clubbed homers to power the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays, securing a split of the seven-inning doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
“When we’re aggressive and attacking pitches in our zone, we’re a dangerous team,” said Judge, who slugged a two-run homer in the third inning and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth. “We had to flip our mindset a little bit and get back out there.”
The Yankees had either won or split 10 consecutive series, a stretch dating back to April 20, before promising Toronto right-hander Alek Manoah handcuffed them in his Major League debut in Thursday's Game 1. In the nightcap, Gio Urshela’s first-inning RBI double helped the Bombers bounce back from that 2-0 loss, offering early support to starter Jordan Montgomery.
By the third, Montgomery was stewing, having issued two-out walks to Danny Jansen and Marcus Semien before grooving a curveball that Bo Bichette slugged out of the yard, his second home run of the twin bill. But Judge put the Yanks back into the game, as he was offered the green light on a 3-0 pitch that came to rest a Statcast-projected 440 feet from home plate.
Judge’s team-leading 13th homer was an impressive drive, even if his teammates are coming to expect those kinds of displays.
“I’m used to seeing that,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “Did it surprise me or impress me? No. I’ve seen a lot of those.”
Sánchez gave the Yanks the lead in the fourth, connecting with a full-count slider to launch a 444-foot laser that struck an advertising board above the visiting bullpen. Blue Jays left-hander Robbie Ray was knocked for five runs (four earned) and five hits over 4 2/3 innings, telling reporters that he thought the Yankees “came out swinging.”
“In the first game, it was tough for us to get anything going,” Sánchez said. “You have to turn the page quickly, focus on Game 2. We got ahead, scored early and that was very good for us.”
This was an eventful homestand for the Yankees: the past seven days featured a triple play, walk-off victories and now a rash of injuries, with right-hander Corey Kluber and first baseman Luke Voit among the latest additions to a crowded injured list.
“We’ve got a lot of depth on this team,” Judge said. “We’ve got guys down there just waiting for this opportunity, and when opportunity comes, they’re hungry. They want this. It sucks to have your big guys get hurt, but I know that guys are ready to step up when they need to.”
The Bombers have lost 12 of their 18 games against Toronto and Tampa Bay this year, going 23-9 in all other contests.
“They’ve got a great ballclub over there,” Judge said. “They’re going to be a tough opponent going down the stretch. We don’t want to lose these series, especially to guys in our division.”
After Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga and Wandy Peralta got the game to the seventh inning, the call to protect a two-run lead went not to Aroldis Chapman, but instead Chad Green.
Green retired the side in order for his second save. Manager Aaron Boone said that Chapman has been dealing with an illness for the past two days, expressing hope that the closer will be available for Friday’s series opener against the Tigers in Detroit.
While Chapman is continuing to test negative for COVID-19, Boone said that it is possible that the club will have him travel separately to Detroit, rather than boarding the team charter flight on Thursday.
“He’s taken a lot of tests in the last couple of days,” Boone said. “We just believe that he caught a bug and is hopefully coming around.”