You can’t look past an MLB team, but this was a game the Yankees absolutely should have won – they were playing against a bad baseball team starting with a bad pitcher, making his first appearance outside of IL. Sure enough, they took care of business, winning their 14th consecutive series against the Royals with an 8-2 win on Alumni Day.
The club was on the move early, with DJ LeMahieu taking starter Jonathan Heasley deep into the Yankees’ first game at bat. It was his 10th long ball of the season, tying his mark of 150 games last year to just his 92nd game this season. Aaron Judge kept up the pressure, singling past Andrew Benintendi’s walk, and Gleyber Torres doubled the lead with a brace on the sidelines, and while the 5-6-7 hitters were a little disappointing to follow this kind of a start, the Yankees still led 2-0 after one.
In the second, well, you’ll never guess what happened:
Aaron Judge has 42 home runs and it’s not August yet. He has played 10 games since the All-Star break and hit 9 bombs. There was a conversation just before the break about whether Yordan Alvarez, Rafael Devers or Shohei Ohtani would pass him in the AL MVP race. Those front two were injured, but for such an amazing season as Ohtani’s, I can’t believe Judge isn’t, once again, the favorite for the award after picking up more than a win and a half in 10 matches. . (As a bonus, his home run today was also a milestone, as he became the 18th Yankees player in history to hit 200 pinstripe homers.)
The rest of the offense came on DJ’s second RBI of the day (a single that scored Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the fourth), Andrew Benintendi’s sacrifice stole two batters later, IKF heading home on a sloppy pitch to third in the sixth inning, and lol Matt Carpenter hit another home run. All three runs of the non-dinger variety came through Royals mistakes to boot. IKF appeared shortstop Maikel Garcia, who nonchalantly took the ball to see it bounce off the heel of his glove.
The next batter, Jose Trevino, bounced a ball at third, and the attempt to get around the horn for a double play went awry when Whit Merrifield couldn’t get the ball back at second. Both men were safe and sound, with IKF taking third place ahead of batting DJs. Likewise, in the sixth, as Izzy tried to steal the third, Salvador Perez knocked down and allowed the seventh point in:
Nestor Cortes got off to a good start, but not a great one. The Royals are a tough team to play against because they don’t knock. They don’t really hit the ball with any authority, but they, as the YES stand might say, put a lot of pressure on the defense – despite everything that has worked for them this year.
Cortes booked his start with two clear rounds, the first and fifth, but let several men play in the remaining rounds. Only two of those runners came, but he wasn’t as snappy as we saw him. Perez’s sack volley to deep left center was a particular mistake, a gutshot fastball that would have been a 16-park home run in MLB, and Nestor knew it:
The All-Star provided us with another dramatic highlight, creating an overly aggressive Hunter Dozier in third:
Cortes probably could have gone more than five innings, but with a big lead, it’s not a bad idea to take him out and save an inning or two here and there. He’s already past his personal best for single-season innings, and even if a pitcher is acquired by Tuesday, he’s No. 3 at worst in the rotation and will be called up in October. On days like today, it’s best to get it out a little early and save some energy for the playoffs.
A lot of what’s going on with this club right now revolves around Aaron Judge. He went from being the best baseball player on TV to not to be missed. The Yankees can continue tomorrow with a sweep of the Royals, but I’m honestly more interested in what Judge’s batting line will look like. Either way, Zack Greinke will face Jordan Montgomery in the series finale, with a first pitch at 1:35 p.m. ET.