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Judge's exit looms over Yankees' 4-homer win

@SlangsOnSports
April 20, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Yankees hit four home runs Saturday, tied for their second-most in a game this season. They would've had five if not for a fan-interference call against Gleyber Torres. Ultimately, that extra home run did not matter, as the Yankees cruised to a 9-2 win over the

NEW YORK -- The Yankees hit four home runs Saturday, tied for their second-most in a game this season. They would've had five if not for a fan-interference call against Gleyber Torres. Ultimately, that extra home run did not matter, as the Yankees cruised to a 9-2 win over the Royals at Yankee Stadium -- but with plenty of concern for slugger Aaron Judge.

The homers started early, with Judge hitting a solo home run in the first inning as the second batter of the game against Royals starter Heath Fillmyer. There mood shifted in the sixth inning, though, when Judge exited with a left oblique injury after hitting a single.

"I don't want to understate how important Aaron is to our team," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "But he will continue to be a presence, and I feel like our guys are very resilient. We've had to deal with a lot of adversity already, and we will embrace this opportunity to go out and perform."

The team performed Saturday -- to the tune of four home runs. It was the Yankees' third game this season with as many as four home runs. They also hit four on April 4 at the Orioles, and hit seven on April 7 in Baltimore.

The Yankees' nine runs were their second-most in any game this season, trailing only the aforementioned seven-homer game, when they scored 15 runs. And aside from the Judge home run, they did not come from the usual suspects. Clint Frazier homered in the second inning, his career-best fifth home run of the season. Entering 2019, he had four career home runs in 54 games.

Frazier has capitalized on opportunities for increased playing time given the state of the Yankees' roster. His three-hit game Saturday, including a home run, double and single, was just another example of that -- and it couldn't have come at a better time for the club.

"It's been a lot of fun. I'm enjoying my time up here and I'm trying to make it a tough decision whenever some of those guys do come back, and I think I've done that," Frazier said after the game. "Right now, I'm just trying to do the best that I can, because obviously there's some guys missing from our lineup, and others have to step up and I'm trying to be one of those guys."

After Torres' home run was overturned in the third, Mike Tauchman and DJ LeMahieu added home runs in the fourth inning. For LeMahieu, it was his first home run since joining the team. Tauchman's production could be particularly important moving forward, too, with Judge expected to require a trip to the injured list. Tauchman could be a candidate to play in the outfield in Judge's place.

Boone noted the importance of having players like Tauchman and Frazier to step up.

"Those guys have been instrumental in us winning ballgames and will continue to be," Boone said. "I truly believe that those guys playing meaningful roles here in important games will serve us well down the road."

Brett Gardner pointed out the successes of players who have been filling in, too.

"Guys have done a good job of stepping up, having good, professional at-bats, and just keeping the line moving. Not trying to do too much, doing a good job of getting on base. It's good to see."

That depth will continue to be tested next week as the Yankees embark on a nine-game West Coast road trip. Beginning Monday night, they'll visit Mike Trout and the Angels for four games before traveling to San Francisco and Arizona. Their next home game is May 3 against the Twins.

Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.