Yankees push win streak to 9 behind Judge's 2-HR day

May 2nd, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- Following the Yankees' win on Saturday night, manager Aaron Boone commended his team’s ability to win in multiple ways. Gerrit Cole did the same just moments later in the locker room, explaining the importance of being able to carve out a victory no matter the situation.

"That's our strength,” Cole said. “Versatility, and ability to play tight games, ability to boat race people, and ability to come back."

Friday night was the boat race, as New York won 12-2. Saturday was the tight game, as Cole and the bullpen bore down and closed it out late. All that left was the comeback -- a box the Bombers couldn’t help but check off before leaving town.

Led by Aaron Judge, the Yankees came from behind to defeat the Royals, 6-4, at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday, securing the sweep and their ninth consecutive victory. They’ve now won 11 of their past 12 and sit at 16-6, the best record in the Major Leagues.

While a double-digit rout like Friday’s would’ve certainly been a bit less stressful for him and his team, Boone was happy to see his club continue to prove it can find different ways to win, something that was especially sweet due to its combined nature.

“We didn't break it open necessarily, but I thought we really made it tough on them and grinded ourselves back into that game,” Boone said. “Just another good one because so many people had a hand in it."

Judge got things going in a hurry, as he turned on the second pitch he saw from Royals starter Daniel Lynch and sent it 453 feet out to straightaway center field.

“It's tough to hit a ball more pure than that,” Boone said.

Trailing 4-1 with one out, Miguel Andújar singled up the middle to kickstart some momentum in the fifth. Five pitches later, Isiah Kiner-Falefa rocketed a double to left that allowed Andújar to race in. DJ LeMahieu plated Kiner-Falefa two at-bats later, but the scoring ended there and New York trailed by one.

The fate of the game really swung in the seventh, and Kiner-Falefa was at the center of it again. He started the inning with extreme patience, working a 12-pitch at-bat against Dylan Coleman that ended in a walk and set the tone for the rest of the game.

"That's the at-bat that sparked it all," Boone said. "And that's a tough matchup. ... Just a really good at-bat. Winning at-bat."

Coleman followed the walk by hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch and walking LeMahieu, summoning a pitching change and bringing Judge to the plate with the chance to do some damage. He did just that, but not how you’d expect; instead of hitting a mammoth homer like he did earlier, he sent a soft dribbler down the first-base line that brought in Rizzo and cut the deficit to one. At 21.7 mph, it’s the lowest exit velocity Judge has logged in his career.

Josh Donaldson grounded a ball to shortstop Nicky Lopez, but his throw came in just a hair too late to catch a sliding Rizzo, who scored the go-ahead run.

After a resilient start by Luis Severino and a solid sixth by Clarke Schmidt, Lucas Luetge and Michael King combined for two scoreless innings to protect the one-run lead. Judge decided they needed more breathing room, though, and demolished another ball over the fence in the ninth, the final blow needed to deliver the sweep.

It was Judge’s 18th career multi-homer game. He has seven home runs during the team’s winning streak -- three of which came in Kansas City.

“I pick my days at Kauffman,” Judge joked. “I've got to find the days when it's blowing out a little bit.”

While a comeback always feels good in any context, it’s especially rewarding for the Yankees as they continue to pride themselves on their multifaceted approach. They leave Kansas City with three distinct wins in their pocket, something that will only continue to give them confidence and help establish their identity as a winning ballclub.

"It is really big,” Boone said. “And they feel that at their core, that they know that they can beat you in a lot of different ways on a given night. Whether we slug with you, whether it's the pitching and the defense. It's really good to see, and again, it's taken all of them and that's been nice."

And with the aspirations this team has, finding that comprehensive groove this early in the season can pay dividends down the road.

"In years past, we've kind of scuffled out of the gates in April, and then all of a sudden, all year, all we're doing is trying to climb back,” Judge said. “... Getting an early lead like this and trying to maintain that and grow throughout the year, it's going to be big for us."