During the New York Yankees’ recent slump, Aaron Judge talked of needing to get the bats started early and stop being in the position of playing from behind as much.
For the past two games, the Yankees big slugger has done his part in making sure New York’s offense is providing some early punch.
“It’s big. You can just tell the flow of the game is different,” Judge said. “Our pitchers are able to attack guys differently. Guys at the plate maybe a little more comfortable knowing that we already got a lead now I can focus on really trying to get my pitch and drive it instead of trying to do too much.”
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Judge capped New York’s early offensive outburst against Seattle All-Star Yusei Kikuchi with his 20th home run of the season, and the Yankees held on for a 5-4 win over the Mariners on Wednesday night.
For the second straight game, the Yankees scored a flurry of runs in the first two innings, but this time had to withstand Seattle’s late rally.
Judge’s two-run homer was clubbed into the second deck of the left field seats and gave New York a 5-1 lead. Luke Voit had a two-out RBI single in the first inning and Gleyber Torres followed with a two-run single as the Yankees scored three in the first inning for the second straight game.
“When we get a lead it just changes everything for us,” Judge said.
Kikuchi (6-4) struggled badly in his first start since becoming an All-Star for the first time. His fastball velocity was down and both his cutter and slider caught too much of the plate early in the game.
The result was a lot of loud contact from the Yankees that Kikuchi was fortunate didn’t result in more runs. Kikuchi allowed a season-high five runs and eight hits and settled down later in his outing to retire the final seven batters and get through five innings.
“The main thing was the velocity of my fastball wasn’t there, as well as my command of it,” Kikuchi said through an interpreter. “And my secondary pitches just weren’t as sharp as always as well.”
Domingo Germán was originally slated to start for the Yankees, but underwent an emergency root canal on Wednesday morning and was scratched from starting. Nick Nelson started and failed to make it out of the first inning thanks to three walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch that plated a run for Seattle.
Luis Cessa (2-1) became the difference maker for the Yankees. Cessa threw 3 1/3 solid innings after Nelson, including escaping a jam in the first inning. Cessa allowed just one hit.
“He was awesome. To be as pitch efficient as he was so to be able to give us 3 1/3 (innings), that was, that was huge. That was the bridge,” New York manager Aaron Boone said.
Germán felt well enough to throw three innings out of the bullpen. He struck out five, but also gave up Tom Murphy’s three-run homer in the sixth inning. All three runs were unearned after Gio Urshela’s error to begin the inning.
It was Murphy’s first home run since June 1.
Jonathan Loaisiga pitched a perfect eighth and Chad Green pitched the ninth for his third save in place of Aroldis Chapman, who has struggled of late and pitched in Tuesday’s opener.
“I just felt in my gut that it called for (Green) in that spot, and that’s why I went with it,” Boone said.
The Mariners celebrated the 10th anniversary of 3B Kyle Seager’s major league debut on Wednesday. Seager is the 11th player in Mariners history to have played at least 10 seasons with the club. Seager would have liked a better day at the plate — he was hitless with two strikeouts.
Seattle LHP Hector Santiago is expected to have his appeal of a 10-game suspension for using a grip-enhancing foreign substance heard on Thursday, manager Scott Servais said.
Santiago became the first player disciplined under Major League Baseball’s crackdown on grip-enhancing foreign substances when he was given a 10-game suspension. The suspension was issued after umpires ejected Santiago on June 26 against the Chicago White Sox.
Santiago has appeared in two games since appealing the suspension.
Mariners: LHP Justus Sheffield (forearm strain) was placed on the 10-day injured list and RHP Erik Swanson was reinstated from Triple-A Tacoma. Sheffield was rocked for six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings on Tuesday and indicated afterward he was dealing with an injury. Swanson was on a rehab assignment in the minors after missing time with a groin strain.
Yankees: LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-3, 4.17) makes his 17th start and is coming off a loss to the Mets where he lasted 4 1/3 innings allowing three earned runs and six hits.
Mariners: RHP Logan Gilbert (2-2, 4.10) makes his 10th start. Gilbert allowed two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in his last start against the Rangers.