Judge's monster May proving 'that's why he's the captain'

Slugger HRs again as Yanks take set vs. Angels -- matching Gehrig in the process

May 31st, 2024

ANAHEIM -- Even while was in the thick of his early-season struggles, the Yankees' captain expressed confidence that he’d soon emerge on the other side, believing that it would prove to be “just one of those months” where nothing seemed to go his way.

He was right. With one day remaining in his May to remember, Judge claimed a share of the Major League lead with his 18th home run while equaling Lou Gehrig for a historic achievement as the Yankees defeated the Angels, 8-3, on Thursday evening at Angel Stadium.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Judge said. “Like I’ve been saying, it doesn’t matter how you start. You’re always going to have good months, bad months. You just try to stay consistent and it’s all going to work itself out. It’s been a good month with a lot of wins, so I’m happy about that. We’ll keep it rolling in June.”

added a three-run triple as part of a five-run seventh inning, joining the outburst on a night in which Judge clubbed his 275th career home run, a two-run shot in the fourth inning off Halos starter Patrick Sandoval.

“He’s just a special player doing special things,” said manager Aaron Boone. “I kind of felt like we needed a shot of energy. Judgie’s homer got the boys going a little bit.”

The blast pulled Judge even with the Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson and the Astros’ Kyle Tucker atop this year’s homer leaderboard, while also tying Judge with Jorge Posada (275) for eighth place on the Yankees’ all-time home run list.

Gehrig had previously been the only Yankee to collect 12 doubles and 12 homers in a calendar month, having done so in July 1930. Judge’s 24 extra-base hits in May are also the most by a Yankee since Joe DiMaggio had 31 in July 1937.

“He’s pretty good, wouldn’t you say?” said left-hander . “I mean, that’s why he’s the captain.”

“He’s the best hitter in the game for a reason,” added catcher Jose Trevino.

Soto’s big knock bounced down the right-field line off José Suarez after Oswaldo Cabrera and Anthony Volpe worked bases-loaded walks off reliever Adam Cimber, who struggled to find the strike zone while issuing four free passes in one-third of an inning.

New York’s 14th series victory in 18 tries (14-2-2) came on an evening that saw two notable streaks snapped. Volpe went hitless in four at-bats, ending his hitting streak at 21 -- the Yanks’ longest since Robinson Canó hit safely in 23 straight games in 2012.

“What a run it’s been for him,” Boone said. “He had one of the biggest at-bats of the night in that inning where we were able to score a big number. You’re not chasing a hit, you’re chasing a good at-bat. To get over 20 games, especially now, is pretty impressive.”

Volpe’s streak tied the Diamondbacks' Ketel Marte (21) for the longest in the Majors this season. Since May 7, Volpe has batted .326/.369/.526 (31-for-95) with four doubles, three triples, three homers and 11 RBIs.

“He’s using the whole field. That’s one thing that jumps off the chart,” Judge said. “That’s what I saw in all the videos when he was going through the Minor Leagues; gap-to-gap and a little pop to the pull side, opposite field.

“We’re finally starting to see that this year. It doesn’t matter if it’s two strikes or the first pitch of the game. He’s driving the ball up the middle, driving it to the right side, doing it with guys on base. He starts the party for us at the top.”

The Bombers’ streak of 16 consecutive starts spanning five innings or more while permitting two or fewer runs -- the longest in the Majors since at least 1893 -- also ended, despite Rodón holding the Angels to Logan O’Hoppe’s solo home run through six strong frames.

Rodón set down 14 straight after O’Hoppe’s homer, but after his team batted around in the top of the seventh, Rodón couldn’t retire the three men he faced in the home half, including a run-scoring double by Kevin Pillar. Willie Calhoun punched in the Angels’ third run with a pinch-hit single off Caleb Ferguson, a run charged to Rodón.

“The pitching staff, hats off to them,” Judge said. “Now it’s time to start another streak. They’re the best in the game right now. The news about Clarke [Schmidt’s injury] definitely hurts, but I know guys will definitely pick up the slack and keep it rolling.”