TORONTO -- The Yankees crunched the numbers ahead of their first visit of the season to Rogers Centre, deciding that an opener would provide their best chance of neutralizing the Blue Jays’ potent lineup. The plan worked perfectly.
“This is where we need to step up, especially against the best teams in the American League East,” Judge said. “Getting this first one against the Blue Jays is big time, but we’ve got another couple of tough games ahead of us.”
Returning to the scene of his 61st home run from Sept. 28 last season, which equaled Roger Maris’ single-season AL home run record, Judge seemed to pick up right where he left off.
The slugger hit a first-inning homer off Alek Manoah, then took Jay Jackson deep in the eighth -- a 462-foot blast to center field that immediately followed the ejection of Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who had argued balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Clint Vondrak.
“Honestly, it’s probably just a normal day for him,” said Willie Calhoun, who hit a two-run homer in the first. “But for a lot of other people, that’d be one of the farthest homers of their careers.”
Boone had already arrived in the visitors' clubhouse as Judge connected, and the manager said that he “let out a pretty good scream” as the ball cleared the wall.
“That was good,” Boone said, “to see him really stick one like that.”
The at-bat would be thoroughly examined, and not simply for the homer, which rocketed off Judge’s at-bat at an exit velocity of 114.9 mph. On the Blue Jays' broadcast, Sportsnet announcers Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez wondered aloud why Judge’s eyes seemed to dart to the right before a pitch was delivered.
Judge’s explanation was that there had been too much “chirping” continuing from the visitors' dugout after Boone’s ejection.
“I said a couple of things when I was in the dugout, and especially after the game,” Judge said. “Hopefully it won’t happen again.”
With the homer, Judge’s 10th of the year, he surpassed Alex Rodriguez (29) for the fifth-most multihomer games in a Yankees uniform. Only Babe Ruth (68), Mickey Mantle (46), Lou Gehrig (43) and Joe DiMaggio (35) produced more such games in franchise history.
“Tonight, we did a good job getting something we could drive and putting a good swing on it to do damage,” Judge said.
New York flipped the script on what appeared to be a pitching mismatch, seeing Cordero and Brito cruise while thumping Manoah for five runs off six hits and seven walks over four-plus innings.
“Any time you can score early, it’s always a good thing,” Boone said. “We added on pretty well, and I felt like all night, we had chances to add on even more. A really good plan by the guys, and they went out and executed it.”
While Manoah served up first-inning blasts to Judge and Calhoun, Cordero took nicely to the opener role, retiring all six batters he faced.
“For Jimmy to set us up and go through those first six hitters, mostly tough right-handed hitters, was huge,” Boone said. “He put us in a good spot for Jhony, who came in and threw the ball really well.”
Said Cordero: “It was a good experience for me. Yeah, for sure, 100 percent, I would do it again.”
Brito pitched five scoreless innings before Toronto finally broke through for four runs (one earned) in the eighth, a frame that featured a Gleyber Torres error.
“When the coaches spoke to me, they informed me that they had an idea they were thinking of doing,” Brito said through an interpreter. “After every start, I’ve been working very hard on improving my strength and understanding how to get better. Tonight, I was able to put together a lot of good things.”