Aaron Judge didn’t even get to see it. The slugger’s 39th home run of the season was a high, arching, majestic shot that soared into left-center field and then dropped over the fence, just out of reach. It was the only run of the game Thursday night at Yankee Stadium in the Bombers 1-0 win over the Royals.
“I was sitting offspeed, got a heater. I thought I hit it too high. I don’t want to be that guy to stand on first base admiring a shot, especially in the ninth inning, especially with the lineup we got,” Judge said. “So I just put it in play and put my head down and I started running.”
Judge’s major league-leading 39th home run of the season was only the Yankees second hit of the night, but it was his third walk-off home run of the season. It was the Bombers’ 12th walk-off win of the year.
“We needed it. We definitely needed it,” Jameson Taillon said of the one-swing lift that Judge gave the Yankees clubhouse after being swept in the Subway Series earlier this week. “I feel like we’ve been in every game, we’ve been playing in tight games. It’s not like we feel defeated or anything, but obviously you want to get back in the win column. So yeah, that’s a huge point there.”
The Yankees (67-33) snapped a two-game losing streak — the aforementioned, much-hyped Subway Series — and won their fourth straight against the Royals (39-60), who they swept in Kansas City at the end of April and beginning of May. It was just the Bombers’ third win in their eight games since the All-Star break.
“It’s always good, but especially coming off of two losses at Citi Field, coming in here and [Royals right-hander Brady] Singer shutting us down all night, that didn’t feel too good,” Judge said. “But this team’s got a lot of heart and now we’re really all in today and we didn’t really care what we did the night before or previous game.
“We know someone’s gonna get it done.”
Judge, who hit his sixth home run in the last seven games, was that person again Thursday night. It was his fourth walk-off hit this season in just six career walk-off plate appearances. His four walk-off hits are tied with Dave Winfield (1985) and Claudell Washington (1988) for the most walk-off hits in a season since 1920.
His three walk-off home runs this year are tied with Mickey Mantle (1959) for the most as a Yankee in a single season.
The Yankees did it after Singer finally was pulled because of his pitch count. The right-hander held the Yankees to one hit, a Gleyber Torres single, over seven innings. He struck out 10, including Judge twice.
“He was really working on the edges. He’s got that great sinker-slider combo. So he really worked on the edges with us and he was painting,” Judge said. “When someone’s on like that, especially [throwing] 95-96 [mph] … it makes for a tough night.”
Taillon was able to make for a tough night for the Royals as well.
Taillon, who had allowed 23 earned runs in 29.2 innings pitched in his six previous starts, stepped up to meet the challenge Thursday. He was able to match scoreless innings with Singer for six innings. The right-hander scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight.
Ron Marinaccio threw two scoreless and Clay Holmes pitched a scoreless ninth inning and earned the win when Judge ended it on one swing.
“We’ve had the best player in the game on our side, and it seems like time and time again, when it’s mattered most, he seems to come up big for us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s in the middle of what’s been a great start to his career. He’s in the middle of a special MVP-like season and to see him do it night-in and night-out on both sides of the ball. … We couldn’t ask for a better leader of our team.”