TORONTO — The Yankees crunched records ahead of their first visit of the season to the Rogers Center, and decided that the opener would provide their best chance to neutralize the mighty Blue Jays lineup. The plan worked perfectly.
“This is where we need to step up, especially against the best teams in the American League East,” Judge said. “Getting that first game against the Blue Jays is a big time, but we’ve got two tough games ahead of us.”
Returning to the scene of his 61st home run on Sept. 28 last season, which tied Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, Judge seemed to pick up where he left off.
The batter hit a pair of first runs off Alec Manoah, then took Jay Jackson deep in the eighth—a 462-foot blast to center field that followed the ejection of Yankees coach Aaron Boone, who argued with balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Clint Vondrak.
“Honestly, it’s probably just a normal day for him,” said Willie Calhoun, who hit a two-run homer in the first. “But for a lot of other people, this will be one of the furthest triggers of their careers.”
Boone had already reached the visitors’ club as the judge called, and the manager said he “gave a very good howl” as the ball cleared the wall.
“That was good,” Boone said, “to really see him stick to one like that.”
The at-bat would be scrutinized, and not just for Homer, who rocketed off Judge’s at-bat at an exiting 114.9 mph. On the Blue Jays broadcast, Sportsnet announcers Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez asked aloud why the umpire’s eyes rolled to the right before the pitch was released.
The judge’s explanation was that there was a lot of constant ‘chirping’ from the visitors’ dugout after Boone was sent off.
“I said a couple of things when I was in the dugout, and especially after the game,” Judge said. “I hope it doesn’t happen again.”
With a homer, Judge’s tenth, he edged Alex Rodriguez (29) for the fifth-most homer in a Yankees uniform. Only Babe Ruth (68), Mickey Mantle (46), Lou Gehrig (43) and Joe Dimaggio (35) have produced more such games in franchise history.
“Tonight, we did a good job of getting something we could drive and take a good swing on it to do the damage,” Judge said.
New York flipped the script on what appeared to be a mismatch on the show, watching Cordero and Brito Cruz as they pitched Manoa for five, six, and seven innings over four innings.
“Anytime you can score early, it’s always a good thing,” Boone said. “We added well, and I felt like all night long, we had opportunities to add more. A really good plan by the guys, and they went out and executed it.”
While Manoah provided first-out blasts to Judge and Calhoun, Cordero took a fine opening inning, retiring all six batters he faced.
“For Jimmy to set us up and go through these top six batters, most of whom are strong right-handed hitters, was huge,” said Boone. “We positioned well for Johnny, who came in and bowled the ball really well.”
Said Cordero: “It was a good experience for me. Yeah, sure, 100 percent, I would do it again.”
Brito pitched five scoreless innings before Toronto finally holed four runs (one earned) in the eighth, a frame that featured an error by Gleyber Torres.
“When the coaches spoke to me, they told me they had an idea they were considering doing,” Brito said through a translator. “After every start, I have been working hard to improve my strength and understand how to improve. Tonight, I managed to accumulate a lot of good stuff.”
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