Aaron Judge’s bat shows signs of awakening as Yankees host Rays

Field Level Media

April 19, 2024 at 3:00 am.

Even as the New York Yankees started quickly, Aaron Judge’s bat was quiet and it was highly noticeable until their first three-game losing streak.

Judge delivered his biggest hit of the season Wednesday afternoon and the Yankees are hoping it sparks a major hot streak starting with Friday’s visit from the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Yankees are off to a 13-6 start despite Judge hitting .183 with three homers and 17 RBIs and a .710 OPS. It is similar to two seasons ago when Judge hit one homer in his first 13 games before hitting an AL-record 62 homers but this time Judge is coming off last season’s toe injury.

On Wednesday, Judge delivered a two-run single in the ninth inning to cap a four-run comeback in a 6-4 win over the Blue Jays. Judge produced his key hit after going 1-for-12 during New York’s three-game losing streak.

“In that situation, just put the ball in play,” Judge said. “Try to create something. Guys in front of me were having great at-bats to kind of lead to that moment. Once you step in there, just have some fun and try to take a good swing.”

Before Judge’s hit, Juan Soto started the rally with a homer in the eighth as part of his third three-hit game of the season. Giancarlo Stanton began the ninth with a homer and Jose Trevino hit a tying single before Judge’s hit gave the Yankees their eighth win by two runs or fewer.

The Rays are 6-3 in their past nine games after splitting a four-game series with the visiting Los Angeles Angels. Despite a 6.00 bullpen ERA, seven of Tampa Bay’s past eight wins are by two runs or fewer, including Thursday’s 2-1 win and the Rays are hoping this weekend goes as well as their first road trip, a 4-2 trek against the Colorado Rockies and Angels.

“They’re playing really good baseball without a doubt,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of the Yankees. “They are a talented team as they are every year. It feels like we go up there, we got a lot of back and forth with them. It’ll be exciting to get in that atmosphere.”

Amed Rosario hit an RBI triple and is hitting .409 (18-of-44) with two homers and nine RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak that is two shy of his career-high. Rosario’s big hit occurred in a game where Randy Arozarena was given the day off after the outfielder went 7-for-55 (.127) in his previous 14 games.

“He’s seeing the ball well,” Cash said of Rosario. “He’s kind of that guy in the lineup that you want up there if you can hand pick somebody to be up there with guys on base.”

The Yankees will open the series with Clarke Schmidt (1-0, 3.68 ERA), who is coming off his first win of the season. After allowing five runs in 9 2/3 innings in a pair of no-decisions, Schmidt survived issuing five walks and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits in five-plus innings of a 3-2 win at Cleveland on Saturday.

Schmidt, 28, is 1-3 with a 4.24 ERA in eight career appearances (four starts) against the Rays. Last season, the right-hander was 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in two starts against the Rays, who batted .279 against him.

Tampa Bay will start left-hander Tyler Alexander (1-0, 6.46), who is making his second start of the season.

Alexander entered in the third inning of his last appearance and was the winning pitcher. He gave up two runs and six hits over six innings in Sunday’s 9-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

Alexander, 29, received a no-decision in his lone start of the season. He gave up four runs and eight hits — including two homers — in 4 1/3 innings against the Colorado Rockies on April 6.

Alexander is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three career appearances (one start) against the Yankees.

Meanwhile, closer Pete Fairbanks has a 9.00 ERA in his first eight outings.

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