NEW YORK -- The blueprint for this season leans heavily on thunder from the top of the lineup and firepower at the back end of the game. It is a formula that has not appeared as often as expected through 17 games, but that may be about to change.Aaron Judge
NEW YORK -- The blueprint for this season leans heavily on thunder from the top of the lineup and firepower at the back end of the game. It is a formula that has not appeared as often as expected through 17 games, but that may be about to change.
Aaron Judge connected for another historic homer, and Player Page for David Robertson wriggled out of an eighth-inning jam to help the bullpen fire 4 2/3 effective innings in support of Carsten Sabathia's return from the disabled list, leading the Yankees to a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Thursday evening at Yankee Stadium.
Judge's seventh-inning blast off Tyler Clippard provided some late fireworks and proved to be the difference, as the Yankees won for the third time in four games. Their record stands at 9-8.
"You don't want to be around .500," Judge said. "You want to win every game, but it's April 19. It's still early. We've still got a lot of work to do, we've got a lot of things to improve on, and we're going to continue to do that. We'll look up in August or September, and if we continue to work on the little things, we'll be where we want to be."
Judge's fifth homer of the season was the 61st of his career in 199 games, making him the fastest to reach that milestone in terms of games played. The previous record was held by Mark McGwire, who hit 61 homers in 204 games for the 1987-88 Athletics.
Didi Gregorius' team-leading 17th RBI of the season, a fifth-inning single off Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez, restored the Yankees' lead after Sabathia permitted two runs (none earned) and four hits over 4 1/3 innings in a 71-pitch effort, having last worked on April 6 due to right hip soreness. Chad Green worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief to pick up the win.
"I felt pretty good while I was out there," Sabathia said. "[The bullpen is] the strength of our team, and we know it. We have to try to give those guys a break as much as we can and keep them as fresh as possible."
Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes drove home second-inning runs against Sanchez, who worked six innings of three-run ball while losing to the Yankees for the second time in as many starts.
Toronto scored on a third-inning Sabathia crossup that went for a passed ball -- one of two on the evening for catcher Gary Sanchez -- and Luke Maile's RBI single in the fourth, a frame that opened with third baseman Torreyes committing the Yankees' American League-leading 18th error.
Curtis Granderson's pinch-hit RBI single off Robertson drew Toronto within one run in the eighth, but Robertson retired the next two batters to wriggle free from a bases-loaded jam. Albertin Chapman struck out the side in the ninth for his third save.
"It was a really good game all around," Chapman said through an interpreter. "The guys were able to score runs, the defense was really good, and we went in and did our job. Yeah, the bullpen hasn't been like we expect of ourselves, but the good thing is that it's early. We have a long season. I'm sure and confident that everyone is going to be on the same page and go in there to do our jobs."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In and out of trouble: Robertson's second pitch of the eighth inning was whacked into left field by Teoscar Hernandez for a single, and eight of his next nine pitches missed the zone, resulting in walks to Justin Smoak and Yangervis Solarte. But Robertson recovered, striking out Kevin Pillar before surrendering Granderson's pinch-hit single. He then fanned Randal Grichuk and got Maile to fly out to left, preserving the lead and allowing himself a sigh of relief.
"We worked so hard to get that lead and everyone pitched so well to hold it, I figured I'd better do my part to at least keep the lead intact," Robertson said. "I didn't have my best stuff tonight. I wasn't filling up the strike zone. It's not like me to walk a couple of guys in an inning. I was fortunate I got out of it tonight and we got a win."
Since the start of 2017, Sabathia is 9-0 with a 1.88 ERA in 13 regular-season starts immediately following a Yankees loss.
HE SAID IT
"One of the strengths of our club is that 'pen and those guys' ability to close out games. It's four dynamic guys that came in there and did their job. I'm excited to see it roll out like that." -- manager Aaron Boone
Sonny Gray will have the words "pitch more athletic" ringing through his consciousness when he takes the ball against the Blue Jays on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Gray believes that he has fallen into some bad mechanical habits, and hopes that a more aggressive mindset will yield better results. Marco Estrada starts for Toronto.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.