Judge’s 4 Hits Not Enough To Lift Yanks Past Jays

(A member of the United States Army Parachute Team arriving in style on Military Appreciation Day – Photo by Jason Schott)

Aaron Judge had four hits for the Yankees, who had plenty of chances, but couldn’t get the big hit as they lost a nailbiter to the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-1, on Saturday afternoon at The Stadium.

This was the second time in his career that Judge has had a four-hit day, and he drove in the Yankees’ lone run of the game in the ninth inning. Judge’s average is now .294, as it went up 21 points in this one.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Judge starting to come into form since his return on June 21, “I feel like, somebody asked me in Tampa (last weekend) if he looked locked in after the two-homer game, and I felt like he was getting close. Here, these last two games coming out (of the All-Star Break), I feel like he’s really close now. I feel like he’s seeing the ball really well, he’s making his move the way he wants to. I mean, he was terrific today, and actually, probably should have been on all five times (at plate, referring to a tough strikeout call in the seventh), so, great day by him and good to see him really starting to, I feel like, lock in.”

Toronto earned their first win in New York this season – in their fifth game here – despite starting pitcher Clayton Richard leaving after two innings with what was announced as “left lat tightness.”

Nick Kingham (2 2/3 innings), Joe Biagini (1/3), Tim Mayza (1 1/3), David Phelps (1 1/3), and Daniel Hudson (1 1/3) combined for one of the best pitching performances of the season against the Yankees.

J.A. Happ got the start for the Yankees, and he was solid through the first five innings, and then in the sixth, the adage of baseball being “a game of inches” rang true

With one out and a runner on, Cavan Biggio dunked one into left field that was just out of reach of shortstop Didi Gregorius.

That was the last batter for Happ, and in came Adam Ottavino, who struck out Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., looking for the second out.

Then, Randal Grichuk looped one into right field, just over the glove of Gleyber Torres, like a mirror image of Biggio’s hit, to score two and make it 2-0 Toronto.

Boone said of the sixth inning, “That’s why we play so many games, because those kinds of things can happen over time. You’ve gotta play really well to beat a good team, so I thought J.A. was really good today, threw the ball really well. I think Biggio got him for the blooper, then Otto (Ottavino) comes in, gets Guerrero, and then Grichuk gets enough of one. I think Otto missed his spot with the pitch, but still, you know, obviously jammed him and tucked it in, and that turned out to be the game. I thought our guys, again today, threw the ball really well, starting with J.A. Happ,” who went 5 1/3 innings, allowing just those two runs on five hits and a walk, with five strikeouts. Following Ottavino were Nestor Cortes, Jr., threw 1 2/3 innings in which he didn’t allow a hit and struck out three; then Zack Britton, who got the final out of the eighth and David Hale, who pitched a scoreless ninth.

The Yankees’ first big chance came in the first inning when Judge got singled, and then Gary Sanchez reached with two outs on a hit-by-pitch. Edwin Encarnacion hit into a fielder’s choice to end the early threat.

In the third, with Kingham on, Judge got a two-out single before Luke Voit (in his first game back after an injured list stint) walked before Sanchez lined one to third base.

In the fifth, Brett Gardner got a one-out single, and then with two outs, Toronto turned to Biagini, who gave up a single to Judge and a walk to Voit to load the bases. Sanchez hit a fly ball to center field -that Randal Grichuk made a great running catch on – to end the threat. (Biagini got credited with the win even though he pitched just 1/3 of an inning and allowed two of the three batters he faced to reach).

In the seventh, with Toronto up 2-0 by that point, Gardner singled with one out against Mayza before Phelps entered. He struck out DJ LeMahieu before striking out Judge looking on a close pitch.

Boone said he was “frustrated” by the strike three call on Judge on a pitch inside, and added, “especially with Aaron, seems like it happens to him more than it should, but I thought overall it was a well-called game and that was one that I clearly thought, obviously, did not go our way.”

The Yankees got quite a scare in the eighth when Encarnacion got hit by a pitch in the hand or wrist by Hudson with two outs. Boone said of it afterwards, “I think it was just loud and a little scary more than anything.” Gregorius then flew out to end the eighth.

Hudson stayed on for the ninth and walked Hicks to open it before getting Torres and Gardner to fly out. LeMahieu singled, and then Judge laced one down the third base line for a single to score Hicks and make it 2-1 Toronto. Voit struck out looking to end it.

Boone said of seeing Toronto shutting his lineup out for eight innings, “Obviously, that’s very rare, you know, I think we have some kind of shutout streak going that goes back awhile (Yankees have not been shut out in 172 games), so it’s always surprising when you get held down like that. Again, that’s sometimes the nature of it. We had our chances, you know, felt like we had a lot of baserunners, and I thought we had some decent at-bats in big spots, but just couldn’t break through enough today, obviously. You know, Grichuk makes a great play on the hit, I think, with the bases loaded (in the fifth) and then comes up and gets a big hit. You know, it’s gonna happen every now and then, you know, you put guys out there often enough, and more often than not, we’re going to come through.”

All of the Yankees’ eight hits were singles, and they were held homerless for just the third time in their last 39 games, and second straight. This is the first time the Yankees have gone back-to-back without a homer since May 8-10 and they fell to 5-9 this season when they don’t hit a long ball.

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