There is crying in baseball as Yanks win 11th straight

May 4th, 2022

TORONTO -- An early contender for baseball’s most heartwarming moment of the season preceded a furious attack from the Yankees’ offense, sparked as Aaron Judge’s sixth-inning home run rocketed toward the second deck at Rogers Centre on Tuesday evening.

The ball rattled around the seating area, retrieved by a fan who magnanimously handed it to a young boy wearing Judge’s No. 99 on his back. Tears were shed in the stands and there was celebration in the dugout for the Yankees, who rallied for their 11th consecutive victory in a 9-1 win over the Blue Jays.

“That’s what’s special about this game,” said Judge, who heard about the clip at his clubhouse locker. “It doesn’t matter what jersey you wear. Everybody’s a fan; everybody appreciates this game. That’s pretty cool. I’ve got to check out that video; that’s special.”

New York was handcuffed through five innings by a dominant Alek Manoah, who retired 15 consecutive Yankees before Aaron Hicks’ one-out single in the sixth. Hicks was erased attempting to steal second base, but Judge -- down in the count 0-2 -- continued to battle, working Manoah to an eighth pitch that he didn’t miss.

Struck at 114.9 mph, the ball soared 427 feet into the 200 level, where a man wearing a Blue Jays pullover clutched the souvenir and momentarily celebrated, then thought better of it. He eyed a youngster in a Yankees T-shirt and handed over the prize; the pair embraced, tears immediately streaming down the overwhelmed boy’s cheeks.

Judge’s ninth home run of the year tied teammate Anthony Rizzo for the Major League lead, extending a surge that has seen Judge drive in 13 runs over the Bombers’ past five games.

“I told you several days ago; we were kind of waiting for him to get going, even though the numbers were still pretty good,” manager Aaron Boone said. “There’s no question, he’s usually squaring up a couple really good every night. Tonight was no different. It’s just really good to see him get settled in and being the player he is.”

The blast stirred the bats to life in the dugout, as the Yanks rallied for six seventh-inning runs, busting the game open. New York has won 18 of its first 24 games for the seventh time in franchise history, last achieved in 2003.

“That was a huge homer. He got all of that one, too,” said Jameson Taillon, who allowed one run over six innings in a winning effort. “It definitely lifted everyone up a little bit. I haven’t been here that long, but I feel like it’s always [Judge] in the big situations, always coming through in that spot.”

Getting Manoah out of the game was key, allowing New York to expose the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Toronto lost a challenge on a play at first base involving Giancarlo Stanton; that would loom large later in the inning, rendering the Jays unable to counter when Marwin Gonzalez was in a rundown between third base and home plate. Replays showed that first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. tagged Gonzalez’s back.

“To be honest, I was just trying to allow the guys to get to third and second,” Gonzalez said. “I was able to do something there and score the run, which was nice to keep the line going.”

Josh Donaldson, Gonzalez and Jose Trevino all picked up RBIs before Judge’s spot came back around, setting up the star’s two-run double.

Stanton added a two-run homer in the ninth, giving the Yanks a Major League-leading 34 homers -- including 23 over their current winning streak.

“It was huge to get into their ’pen and wear them down,” Stanton said. “Keep pushing, keep grinding. We work hard every day, so it’s good to see it pay off.”

While Judge continues to insist that he is grinding at the plate, pointing to his three-strikeout “hat trick” on Tuesday, he may be more locked in than at any point since his 2017 AL Rookie of the Year campaign.

“I’m just trying to do what I can,” Judge said. “When I’ve got Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton behind me, Aaron Hicks and DJ LeMahieu in front of me, they push you a little bit. They’re always getting on base, always having good at-bats. It motivates the team, motivates me. I see these guys working; I’ve got to go out there and do the same thing.”

The clip of the boy and his home run ball was already going viral by the time reporters approached Judge’s locker in the visiting clubhouse; he grinned broadly when informed of the events. For nearly two weeks, he -- and the rest of the Yankees -- have had plenty to smile about.

“That’s what it’s going to take when you’re playing 162 against some of the best teams in the game,” Judge said.