Yanks slip late after Volpe (1st MLB HR), Judge go back to back

Top prospect gets to share his special moment with family, retrieves milestone baseball

April 15th, 2023

NEW YORK -- rested his forearms on the padded railing of the Yankees’ dugout during the first inning on Friday evening, unable to contain a broad grin after connecting for the first home run of his Major League career.

had just completed his own trip around the basepaths, giving New York a quick lead. As the reigning American League Most Valuable Player enveloped the rookie shortstop in an aggressive bear hug, the Yanks glimpsed the building blocks of what could be a very bright future.

“It was a pretty special moment that I got to share with the rest of the guys,” Volpe said after a 4-3 loss to the Twins. “I don’t think it really sunk in until an inning or two later.”

The promising opening act from Volpe and Judge was upended late, with Carlos Correa stroking a go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning off reliever Clay Holmes. Nestor Cortes hurled seven sharp innings of two-run ball, accepting a no-decision.

“It stings a little,” Cortes said. “We kind of felt like we had it in the bag, but sometimes it just doesn’t go our way.”

Yet, while Aaron Boone also lamented a loss that spoiled nice storylines for both Volpe and Cortes, the Yankees manager expects that Volpe -- the club’s top-rated prospect and the No. 3 in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline -- will have many more opportunities to shine in the Bronx.

“It was cool,” Boone said. “Great crowd tonight; a warm night, like a summer night. To get it going like that, it was definitely fueling him.”

Batting in the leadoff spot, Volpe cracked the second pitch he saw from Twins right-hander Louie Varland –- a 95.3 mph four-seamer up in the zone -- over the wall in left-center field.

The drive traveled a Statcast-projected 394 feet, marking Volpe’s second career extra-base hit after the New Jersey native legged out a triple on April 8 at Baltimore.

Volpe said that his parents, Michael and Isabelle, were both among Friday’s crowd of 41,039. A Yankees security official helped broker a swap of the home run ball for Volpe, who said he had not yet decided what to do with the milestone memento.

“[The dugout reaction] was pretty great, from what I remember of it,” Volpe said. “I was pretty blacked out, but it was cool to share it with everybody.”

Judge immediately followed with his fifth homer of the season, also off Varland, who served up Judge’s 55th homer last September while making his big league debut at Yankee Stadium.

It marked the first time the Yanks hit back-to-back homers to open a game since June 25, 2019, when DJ LeMahieu and Judge did it against the Blue Jays, and the 12th time in franchise history.

Per OptaStats, it's the fifth time in his career that Judge has been part of back-to-back homers to lead off a game. That's the most by any player in MLB history, surpassing Hall of Famer Derek Jeter (four times).

“It was amazing, seeing the reaction of the crowd,” Volpe said.

Volpe is the seventh Bomber to have his first Major League homer come as a leadoff blast, and the first since Bobby Richardson on July 25, 1959, at Detroit.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, at 21 years and 351 days, Volpe is the third-youngest Yankee to hit a leadoff home run, trailing only Mickey Mantle (19 years, 328 days on Sept. 13, 1951) and Mark Koenig (21 years, 278 days on April 23, 1926).

Volpe credited his teammates for offering a few batting tips in the last 24 hours, mentioning Harrison Bader and Josh Donaldson.

“Regardless of any of the results, I definitely feel a lot better in the box,” Volpe said. “A lot better on my checks, a lot better on my takes. As long as the process is good and I feel like I’m making adjustments, the results and everything else will take care of itself.”

Giancarlo Stanton also homered for the Yankees, who carried a one-run lead to the eighth. Boone called upon Holmes, preferring his right-on-right matchup against the top of Minnesota’s order.

After a hit and a walk, Correa doubled on a two-strike pitch, a hit that proved decisive. Though Correa stole the ending of this one, he also applauded what has the makings of a promising start for Volpe. 

“He’s a very impressive kid,” Correa said. “He’s very athletic and really good defensively, so far that I’ve seen. The bat is coming along. I think he’s going to be a great, great player for years to come.”