Judge returns, slams Tigers with 2-HR game

May 1st, 2021

NEW YORK -- spent most of the last two days tinkering with his swing, adjusting his hand placement and stride to find a better position for driving the ball. As the Yankees slugger watched his first homer of the night rattle the glass over Monument Park, it sure seemed like time well spent.

Judge doubled down an inning later by launching his second career grand slam, celebrating the 12th multihomer game of his career. The Bombers enjoyed a five-homer barrage, setting new season highs for runs and hits in a 10-0 rout of the Tigers on Friday evening at Yankee Stadium.

“All around, I think our team is just really starting to get comfortable,” Judge said. “We got off to a slow start this season, but that’s why we play 162. We’re staying aggressive, we’re attacking pitches in the zone. When we do that, this team is something special.”

Judge’s performance helped support a sterling 12-strikeout effort by ace Gerrit Cole, coming after the slugger was out of the starting lineup for the final two games of a series in Baltimore to address what manager Aaron Boone vaguely described as “lower body soreness.”

Whatever was ailing Judge seems to have been resolved, as he cleared the center-field wall in the third inning facing left-hander Tarik Skubal, then launched a second-deck slam to right off right-hander Buck Farmer in the fourth. Judge leads the Yanks with seven homers.

“Putting up 10 runs like we did, that’s the way we want to start a homestand,” Judge said. “Especially when we’ve got Big Cole on the mound, he’s always dominant, ready to go, prepared. He always gets us fired up and locked in. We responded and kept it up throughout the whole night.”

Giancarlo Stanton’s bat continued to sizzle with three Statcast-notable hits, extending his hitting streak to eight games. Stanton has logged three consecutive games with three hits for the first time in his career.

“I’m on time for the fastball,” Stanton said. “I was swinging through a lot of those in the zone. When you can square up the heater and adjust to the rest, that’s when I’m at my best.”

Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks and Rougned Odor also homered for the Yanks, who improved to 12-7 in games when they hit at least one home run.

“It’s definitely good to swing the way they did again, up and down the lineup,” Boone said. “We’ve started to win some more games and the offense has started coming through. It does seem like a lot of different guys are having a hand in things, and that was certainly the case tonight.”

Aces high
The Yankees’ rotation has been hit or miss through the season’s first month, but Cole has been everything that they could have asked -- and then some.

The right-hander wrapped up a dominant month by limiting the Tigers to four hits over six scoreless frames, throwing 61 of 87 pitches for strikes. Cole is 4-1 with a 1.43 ERA through six starts.

“I came out with a goal to try to settle in a bit earlier this year, and I think I’m on the right track to do that,” Cole said. “I’m still making some adjustments. I have to stay sharp in terms of counterpunches and continuing to find all four corners of the strike zone. I’m certainly pleased how we’ve gotten off. We’ve put ourselves in a good position to continue to get stronger.”

With four starts of 10 or more strikeouts and zero walks, Cole has already equaled a franchise mark set in 2001 by Mike Mussina. Cole’s 62 strikeouts are the second most of any Yankee in any calendar month, behind only Ron Guidry, who fanned 64 in June 1978.

“There's been some 3-0 counts that I've been able to come back and make some good pitches,” Cole said. “I don't think that's always going to go in my favor, but I think we've limited some of those as of late. I’ve just tried to be unpredictable in those counts and continued to stay on the attack.”

April showers
The 15-hit attack represented a welcome reprieve for the Yanks, who finished April with a 12-14 record -- their first time finishing a calendar month below .500 since August 2017.

Boone pulled Judge, DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres early due to the lopsided score, allowing his team to savor the laugher. Luis Cessa, Wandy Peralta and Lucas Luetge tossed the final three innings as Yanks pitchers struck out 18, equaling a franchise record for a nine-inning game.

“It’s definitely good to get a lopsided one to go our way,” Boone said.