NEW YORK -- For the first time this season, Aaron Boone filled out his lineup card without writing Aaron Judge’s name. That couldn’t have been easy for the Yankees’ manager, but given the injury woes that have hovered over his team like a black cloud, Boone continued to keep a
NEW YORK -- For the first time this season, Aaron Boone filled out his lineup card without writing Aaron Judge’s name. That couldn’t have been easy for the Yankees’ manager, but given the injury woes that have hovered over his team like a black cloud, Boone continued to keep a positive outlook.
“When you’ve been in this game long enough, adversity is a reality,” Boone said before Sunday's game at Yankee Stadium. “It’s going to come in different shapes, sizes and forms throughout the course of the season, and you never really know. You’ve got to be able to deal with it and roll with it.”
The Yankees handled the first day of Judge’s absence just as Boone had hoped they would, grinding out a 10-inning, 7-6 victory over the Royals after losing a five-run lead in the eighth. Austin Romine, who tied the game with an RBI single in the eighth, delivered the game-winner in the 10th, another run-scoring hit that gave the Yankees their first walk-off win of 2019.
New York finished the homestand 6-3, winning five of its last six.
One might have argued that Sunday’s lineup had the look and feel of a split-squad game in Dunedin, Fla., rather than a meaningful regular-season contest, as three starters (Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford) had combined for only 240 career big league at-bats. Boone brushed aside any such notions before the game, expressing the utmost confidence in his group.
“I wrote out the lineup today and I feel like it’s balanced and I feel like it’s capable,” Boone said. “I look forward to those guys going out and producing. I really do feel that way. I hate not writing Judgie in there, but I feel like the lineup we’re putting out there today is capable of putting some points on the board.”
Seven different Yankees produced hits, including Ford, who picked up his first big league knock with a second-inning double. Romine and Brett Gardner collected three hits apiece. Clint Frazier belted a three-run homer in the fifth that opened up the five-run cushion for James Paxton, who struck out 12 over six-plus shutout innings, his second straight game with a dozen punchouts.
“There’s a couple guys who are irreplaceable here, but we’ve got to find a way to do it,” said Romine, who drove in three. “We’re finding a pretty good way to do it.”
Paxton was forced to settle for a no-decision after Chad Green and Adam Ottavino combined to allow six runs to the first six Royals hitters in the eighth. Alex Gordon’s three-run blast tied the game, then Hunter Dozier hit a solo homer on the next pitch, both coming against Ottavino.
But even the bullpen meltdown didn’t deter the Yankees, who have become quite experienced with adversity during the first 21 games of the season.
Judge became the 13th player on the Yankees’ injured list, joining regulars Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sánchez, Miguel Andújar, Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird. Luis Severino and Dellin Betances have also been on the IL all season, putting extra pressure on the pitching staff.
“At this point, what’s another one?” Ottavino said. “You have to play the games no matter what, so we’ll focus on doing our jobs the best we can. When guys are back, they’re back. The good news is that we’ll be getting stronger over time.”
Zack Britton, who pitched a scoreless 10th to earn the win on Sunday, said he has never been on a team with this many injuries, but he thought back to his experience as a member of the 2014 Orioles when asked about a club handling these types of massive obstacles.
“[Manny] Machado had knee surgery, [Matt] Wieters had Tommy John, Chris Davis got suspended and we were sitting there like, ‘What are we going to do?’” Britton said. “Guys like Steve Pearce stepped up; Delmon Young, Ryan Flaherty, Caleb Joseph. That’s what you’re going to have to have. If anything, it’s going to make the team better, because some guys that people overlooked are going to step up and do a good job.”
That Orioles team made it all the way to the American League Championship Series, so no matter how many players fall victim to injuries, Britton and the Yankees have no choice but to forge ahead with whomever is in uniform that day.
With the homestand behind them, the Yankees boarded a flight to Anaheim, where they’ll open a nine-game road trip on Monday. West Coast swings -- this one takes them through Anaheim, San Francisco and Arizona -- are never easy, but what’s been easy so far for these Yankees?
Sunday certainly wasn’t, but they walked off the field with a hard-earned win.
“I think it gets you comfortable in these situations,” Boone said. “These situations that come up over the course of the year, that are going to come up in big spots, it’s not always going to be perfect. I think you need to embrace that; get comfortable being uncomfortable. For looking like we’re going to cruise, a lot of really good things happened for us to snatch that game back. You could feel that energy in the room on a win like that. That’s something that I know makes for a better trip across the country.”
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.