On the eve of his arbitration hearing with the New York Yankees, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Aaron Judge would play the hero.
In a good old fashion slugfest in the Bronx, the Bombers rallied from a 6-3 deficit in the bottom of the ninth to win 7-6 in the series opener against the Houston Astro. Judge drove in the winning run on a 3-0 pitch with two runners on and two outs.
Jose Trevino singled and DJ LeMahieu walked to set up the Yankees superstar to drive in the winning run on a single down the left-field line.
“He means everything to this team and certainly everything to this fanbase,” Boone said of Judge. “He embodies all that you want in your superstar player. I think it’s easy for these people to get behind him and what a great at-bat there. What a great job on 3-0.”
It was a three-run blast by Aaron Hicks earlier in the ninth that tied the game at six. Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres both walked to start the inning, which set up Hicks to send a 1-2 pitch over the right-field wall and send the 44,071 in attendance into a state of jubilation.
“Just top to bottom, starting off getting on base and just getting Hicksy up there with some guys on base to tie it,” Judge said about the rally. “It was a lot of good at-bats all the way around. I think G started off, I could go through every single guy and every single pitch was important. … It was big time.”
Thursday’s game had plenty of extra emphasis surrounding it considering the history between the two teams. The rowdy fans chided the Astros and second baseman Josse Altuve at every turn that they could.
It marked the first meeting of the year between Houston and New York and the ninth walk-off win for the Bombers this season.
“We don’t like to lose. We’re a team that’s going to keep fighting to the end,” Hicks said about the Yankees’ tendency to come from behind. “Until the last out is made, we believe that we still have a chance.”
Judge’s heroics became even more notable on Thursday night because of his pending salary arbitration hearing on Friday. The Yankees slugger will go in front of a three-person panel to argue his case for why he deserves the $21 million salary he’s asking for this season.
When Judge was asked about the upcoming big day by a reporter, he responded “we’ll talk after” with a bit of a grin.
Starter Jameson Taillon pitched 5.2 innings and picked up his second loss of the season. Taillon allowed all six Astros runs, gave up three hits, hit one batter and struck out three.
Altuve was hit by a pitch in the first at-bat of the game, which drew loud applause from the home fans, and Michael Brantley singled on a hard line drive to right field to put runners on the corners. It was after that when Alex Bregman homered on a 0-1 slider that went into left-field stands to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.
Taillon managed to settle in after that and retire the side.
The Yankees managed to get on base quickly to start the bottom half of the inning. DJ LeMahieu walked on four pitches and Aaron Judge singled on a sharp line drive to left field.
Two batters later Giancarlo Stanton sent an opposite-field home run into right field to tie the game up at three. The three-run shot was Stanton’s 15th of the season.
However, the deadlock didn’t last for long as the Astros took back their lead in the third. Once again, things started with Altuve, this time the Houston second baseman reached on a groundball single.
Bregman reached base on a single with one out and this time it was Yordan Alvarez who sent a pitch into the stands. Alvarez sent the changeup over the right-field wall to put the Astros ahead 6-3.
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The biggest Yankees threat came in the bottom of the eighth after Aaron Judge reached first base on a fielder’s error. Anthony Rizzo sent a screaming shot towards the right-field wall, but Kyle Tucker was able to make the impressive grab to end the inning without a Yankee runner crossing the plate.
Albert Abreau, who the Yankees claimed off waivers on Tuesday and added to their active roster before the game, pitched one inning in the eighth. He gave up one hit and walked one before getting out of the inning.