NEW YORK (AP)There’s no sorcery to Aaron Judge’s recent success, although it looks that way, even close up.
”Just takes the magic wand and does his thing,” Yankees ace Gerrit Cole said.
No doubt, this is Judge’s show. He added a new trick Friday night, too – making someone else’s homer disappear.
Judge became the first big leaguer with 40 homers this season, smashed a grand slam for No. 41 and robbed a home run in right field as New York rallied to beat the Kansas City Royals 11-5 Friday night.
”He’s amazing,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. ”He’s just doing some really special things.”
Isiah Kiner-Falefa lined a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning as New York completed its major league-leading 29th comeback victory.
It only seems as though Judge has had a hand in all of them.
”It’s like a steady dose of amazingness,” Cole said.
A free agent at the end of the season, Judge is on pace for 66 home runs, which would top Roger Maris’ club record of 61 in 1961. Judge, Maris and Babe Ruth in 1928 are the only Yankees with at least 40 homers by the end of July, per MLB.com.
Judge was lavished with ”MVP!” chants throughout the night, none louder than after his slam in the eighth cemented yet another Yankees rally. He also had a single and finished with six RBIs, giving him a major league-leading 89.
He has eight homers and 19 RBIs in nine games since the All-Star break, but claims he feels no different at the plate.
”Just like any other time,” he said.
Judge and Anthony Rizzo homered early on a rainy night in the Bronx, but Kansas City came back against Cole, with Whit Merrifield’s two-run single in the fifth ending a scoreless drought of 31 2/3 innings for the Royals.
Salvador Perez followed Merrifield with a go-ahead, three-run homer in his return from the injured list for a 5-3 lead.
New York erased it by batting around during a messy eighth inning that followed a 23-minute rain delay.
Rizzo and Gleyber Torres hit one-out singles, then shortstop Maikel Garcia booted Josh Donaldson’s grounder off the slick infield.
Andrew Benintendi’s bases-loaded grounder was gloved by diving first baseman Nick Pratto, but pitcher Scott Barlow (4-4) failed to cover first, giving Benintendi an RBI single – his first hit with the Yankees after a trade from the Royals on Wednesday.
Barlow’s next pitch skipped near Aaron Hicks’ feet, and plate umpire Chris Guccione called an RBI hit by pitch. That ruling was reversed via video replay, but Hicks walked a few pitches later on a full count to make it 5-5.
Kiner-Falefa then ripped a single to left, and Jose Trevino followed with an RBI groundout for a 7-5 edge. DJ LeMahieu walked before Judge clubbed his fourth career slam off Jackson Kowar.
Albert Abreu (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth against a Kansas City team that waived him June 21.
The 6-foot-7 Judge began the game by reaching over the right-field fence to rob MJ Melendez of a homer, then hit a 449-foot, two-run shot in the third inning. It was his second homer in three at-bats after he hit a game-ending drive in the ninth inning of a 1-0 win against Kansas City on Thursday night.
”Hitting a homer is still above robbing one for me right now, but it’s still fun,” Judge said.
Cole was overpowering – except for the fifth inning. He was pulled after six with nine strikeouts and no walks. Five of the seven hits he allowed came in the fifth, and all five runs charged against him came in the inning.
Perez, last year’s major league home run champion, batted third as the designated hitter barely a month after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.
The seven-time All-Star flied out to left field and struck out in his first two at-bats, then launched a no-doubter to left-center off Cole. Perez admired his high fly ball from the batter’s box and pumped his fist after rounding second.
”Salvy being Salvy, just reminding us how special he is,” manager Mike Matheny said.
Kansas City initially estimated the 32-year-old Perez would need eight weeks to recover after surgery June 24, but doctors assured the club he was ready for big league action.
Garcia got his first career hit with an infield single in the third, Kansas City’s first hit of the game. He reached after shortstop Kiner-Falefa had trouble getting the ball out of his glove. Garcia also hit a clean single in the fifth.
Royals: SS Bobby Witt Jr. was out of the lineup for a fifth straight game with right hamstring soreness, but Matheny is optimistic Witt will play before the end of the weekend. … 3B Emmanuel Rivera was optioned to Triple-A to make space for Perez.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (strained right lat) could resume throwing Monday if he progresses as hoped this weekend.
Yankees LHP Nestor Cortes (8-3, 2.48 ERA) makes his second start Saturday since pitching in the All-Star Game. He’ll face Royals veteran RHP Zack Greinke (3-6, 4.35), who could be traded before Tuesday’s deadline. New York will celebrate its annual Old-Timers’ Day prior to the game, although the usual exhibition game of retired Yankees was called off because too many former players are recovering from surgeries.
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