NEW YORK – Aaron Judge is turning walk-off home runs into a routine.
Judge hit his major league-leading 39th home run for his third walk-off long ball this season, lifting the New York Yankees over the Kansas City Royals 1-0 Thursday night.
New York was held to one hit before Judge drove a first-pitch fastball from Scott Barlow (4-3) into the Kansas City bullpen with one out in the ninth, a 431-foot drive.
“I just try not to think too much in those situations,” Judge said.
Judge sent the crowd of 43,836 into a frenzy, joining Mickey Mantle as the only Yankees with three walk-off home runs in one season. Tommy Henrich had two in 1949 plus another off Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe in the World Series opener.
“I just got done watching the video and it just leaked right back middle,” Barlow said. “It’s what he hits really well.”
Judge had never hit a big league walk-off homer before May 10 against Toronto’s Jordan Romano, then hit another on June 26 off Houston’s Seth Martinez. He became the first Yankee with four walk-off hits of any kind in one season since Claudell Washington in 1988.
“It doesn’t cease to amaze the season he’s putting together. Barlow’s obviously really tough,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Just gets a pitch and to put it up in the air where he did is just, not many people can hit it like that and ride it out like he did.”
Judge also stole his 10th base, a career high.
The Yankees had not won a 1-0 game on a walk-off homer since Ruben Sierra connected off the Blue Jays’ Vinnie Chulk on July 22, 2004.
New York’s 12 walk-off wins are tied for second-most through a team's first 100 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, one fewer than the 1959 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Andrew Benintendi went 0 for 4 with one strikeout in his Yankees debut, facing Kansas City one day after the Royals dealt him to New York for three minor league pitchers.
“Definitely looking forward to getting some rest tonight but it’s been crazy,” Benintendi said. “Meeting a lot of people, running all over the place but I’m glad to be here and I wouldn’t change it.”
Clay Holmes (5-1) worked around two walks in a hitless ninth, combining on a four-hitter with Jameson Taillon and Ron Marinaccio.
New York has an AL-best 67-33 record but had lost 10 of its previous 15 games, getting swept this week in a two-game Subway Series at the NL East-leading Mets and losing both games of a doubleheader last week at AL West-leading Houston. The Yankees won with two hits for the second time, following a 5-1 victory at the Chicago White Sox on May 15.
Taillon struck out a season-high eight and allowed four hits in six innings. Rookie Ron Marinaccio got six outs with two hitless innings and has not allowed a run in 19 innings. Batters are 1 for 57 against him in that span.
“Confidence has been growing so I’ve been a little more convicted with some of the decisions I’m making and the pitches I’m throwing,” Marinaccio said.
Brady Singer struck out 10 and allowed one hit in seven innings, a two-out single in the fourth by Gleyber Torres. Kansas City, last in the AL Central, dropped to 39-60.
“Brady responded as good as you could ever ask any pitcher against an offense like this,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “This is the best we’ve seen him.”
Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo heard loud boos, striking out three times for the 12th game this season. Gallo, hitting .159, also fanned four times in a pair of games.
NOT SO FAST
With a 2-2 count in the sixth inning, Judge looked at ball three. MJ Melendez apparently thought the pitch was a strike, emphatically firing the ball down to third base. Judge remained in the box while plate umpire Ramon De Jesus informed the rookie catcher he was mistaken, but Singer fanned Judge swinging on the next pitch.
CHEERS FOR BUCK
The Yankees paid tribute to the late Buck O’Neil prior to the game. Public address announcer Paul Olden read the Kansas City legend’s many accomplishments followed by a touching tribute video shown on the center field scoreboard. A two-time All-Star first baseman in the Negro Leagues and the first Black coach in the National or American leagues, O’Neil played a key role in Kansas City Monarchs championships as both a player and manager. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Royals: Recalled SS Maikel Garcia from Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Yankees: Optioned OF Tim Locastro to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Royals: SS Bobby Witt Jr. (hamstring) took batting practice and fielded ground balls. He has missed four straight games. … C Salvador Perez (left thumb) continued his rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha, going 0 for 1 with a walk as the designated hitter. “He’s getting close,” Matheny said.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (strained right lat) could start throwing soon. A decision on whether or not he’s ready to do so is expected Thursday or Friday, according to Boone. … INF DJ LeMahieu was given a night off.
Royals: LHP Kris Bubic (2-6, 5.53 ERA) has allowed just two earned runs in 14 innings over his past two starts.
Yankees: RHP Gerrit Cole (9-3, 3.09 ERA) makes his seventh start against Kansas City. The five-time All-Star has a 2.04 ERA over 39 2/3 innings in their previous encounters.
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