Aaron Judge inspires Yankees to triumph on his special day despite injury

Aaron Judge is batting during the game against the Twins at Target Field on April 26, 2023.

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As Aaron Judge sprinted down the dugout runway on Wednesday with his right wrist throbbing from an awkward slide in the second inning, it generated a dampening optimism for a strong summer for the Yankees. However, the Yankees captain‘s resilient performance powered his team to win despite the injury scare.

The Yankees’ offense has been struggling as of late. Manager Aaron Boone expressed his desire for the team’s offense to put up some skewed statistics in honor of Aaron Judge’s 31st birthday before Wednesday’s game against the Twins. That’s exactly what the Yankees did.

On his 31st birthday, Aaron Judge helped the New York Yankees avoid a sweep with three hits, three runs batted in, and a narrow escape from serious injury in a 12-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.

After another impressive performance on his birthday, Aaron Judge’s slash line now reads .412/.545/.941 with five extra-base hits in five games.

Aaron Judge’s heroics carried the Yankees

In his first two at-bats, Aaron Judge doubled twice. The second one was a base-clearing double that put the Yankees up by five runs. The slugger then attempted a steal of third base with Anthony Rizzo on first and two outs. The throw arrived before he reached the bag, despite his best efforts. Aaron Judge flipped over his hands and shoved his right one into the bottom.

However, he did not appear to be in any discomfort for the remainder of the game. In the fourth inning, he walked, then in the fifth he singled, but in the eighth he struck out.

Aaron Judge kept flexing his right hand and speaking with a stone face as the action unfolded. Would he launch another attack? Did he? Fans had anxious moments. For two more innings, he kept fans at Target Field on the edge of their seats before adding a third hit to his 31st birthday performance in a 12–6 blowout of the Twins.

The Yankees could now let out a collective sigh of relief. The struggling offense finally broke out of its rut and scored more than its previous season high (11, on April 11 vs Cleveland).

Kenta Maeda, the starting pitcher for the Twins, was shelled for 10 runs and 11 hits in three and a half innings of work. Aaron Judge and Anthony Volpe each drove in three runs to lead the onslaught. Then, later in the game, Gleyber Torres hit his third home run of the year, a two-run shot.

With a 12–6 victory over the Twins, the Yankees were able to salvage a win from the series. It was the most points they’d scored in a game all year. Their 14 hits were also a team-best this year.

Aaron Judge, whose bat had gone cold during the Yankees’ recent homestand, showed hints of a budding offensive outburst on this day.

“It would’ve been a sad birthday if we would’ve gotten swept here in Minnesota,” Aaron Judge said. “The guys showed up. They went out there and did their jobs. We have to build off this and keep it rolling with a good team in Texas.”

Aaron Judge, Anthony Volpe paired up

In a display of his prowess, Aaron Judge kicked off the game with a resounding double in his initial at-bat. Building on this momentum, he continued to make his presence felt as he capitalized on a run-scoring hit by Volpe with a powerful bases-clearing double during the Yankees’ explosive five-run second inning.

However, Aaron Judge’s ambition didn’t stop there. With an audacious attempt to steal third base, he sprinted towards the bag, only to be met by catcher Christian Vázquez’s precise throw, resulting in a thrilling moment as Judge tumbled headfirst into the base.

“I was mad I got thrown out, first off,” Judge said. “I was just trying to make something happen and get to third base. I thought I had a good jump, and getting thrown out is pretty embarrassing, even on your birthday.”

At the time, fans were not sure if the Yankees‘ designated hitter, Aaron Judge, would be able to bat again in the game. Two trainers followed him to the Yankees clubhouse.

But after using a massage gun on his hand and wrist for a few minutes, the power hitter eventually made his way back to the dugout. After a brief conversation, Aaron Judge confirmed to Boone that he was ready to take the plate.

“I love it,” Judge said. “I got a chance to hit behind one of the best hitters in the game in DJ LeMahieu the past couple of seasons. Getting a chance to hit behind Anthony now and watch him work at-bats — he worked a couple of walks, stayed aggressive and drove a couple of balls. He’s stealing bases and is active on the base paths, which has allowed me to get some better pitches to hit. I love it. Impressive at-bats all around.

Judge, Rizzo led the Yankees

In the fourth inning, Judge showcased his discipline at the plate by earning a well-deserved walk against Maeda, demonstrating no signs of discomfort as he confidently fouled off a pitch. Following his friend’s impressive plate discipline, Rizzo stepped up and unleashed a powerful swing, launching a two-run double that contributed to a remarkable six-run inning. This offensive outburst provided right-hander Domingo Germán with a substantial advantage, setting the stage for a promising performance.

“We’ve been grinding offensively collectively, so to put up two big innings there, I liked the way we did it,” Rizzo said. “Getting guys on, a couple of bunts for hits or sac bunts that worked out. We just kept the line moving.”

“He said, ‘I should have got to third,’” Anthony Rizzo said. “That was really it.”

After scoring 12 runs on Wednesday, the Yankees’ offense still averages just four runs a game, enough for 22nd in the league.

Aaron Judge set the tone for the fifth

In the fifth inning against Brent Headrick, Judge hit a crisp single to left field, but he was struck out looking two innings later. The AL MVP now joins Lou Gehrig (June 19, 1929, vs. Boston; June 19, 1935, vs. Detroit) and Jerry Mumphrey (September 9, 1981, vs. Milwaukee) as the only Yankees to record three or more hits and three or more RBIs on their birthday.

Even before Wednesday’s game, Boone discussed the potential of benching Aaron Judge at least once during the next four-game series against the Rangers, as Judge has played in all 25 games so far this season.

When Aaron Judge injury scare put fans on the edge

In the second inning, Aaron Judge gave Yankees fans a scare when he was thrown out at third while attempting to steal a base to advance Rizzo in the batting order. He slid into the sack uncomfortably but jammed his wrist.

Aaron Judge stood up after being tagged out at third during a steal attempt and immediately proceeded toward the tunnel, accompanied by trainers. The star batter was seen flexing his wrist in the dugout, but he remained in the game. Although there were immediate concerns in the dugout as to whether or not Judge would continue playing, he later indicated his wrist feels OK.

After the game, though, he played down any signs of distress, saying instead that he was “feeling good.”

“I was mad I got thrown out, first off,” said Judge. “Trying to make something happen and get to third base for [Anthony Rizzo] so he [could] poke something to the right side. I thought I had a good jump, but getting thrown out is pretty embarrassing, even on your birthday. I was just mad about that.”

“There were some talks but we ended those pretty quick,” Judge said. “You can either play or can’t play. I was able to play. It’s feeling good. You never know with those games. Even though we had a big lead, they’re kind of coming back. You got to stay in there and keep working your at-bats.”

Aaron Judge, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk, and three RBIs, had just reached second base in the top of the second inning thanks to an RBI double. The outfielder then made the risky decision to try a steal at third. He was not only sent flying a long distance, but he also looked to injure his hand on the landing of his headfirst fall.

With that hand still in his grasp, Aaron Judge bolted left the field and headed for the tunnel. Many Yankees fans assumed the worst when they saw him in what appeared to be in pain. They took to social media to vent their anguish.

To get his first day off of the season, Yankees manager Boone had indicated before the game that he hoped Aaron Judge would serve as DH for one or two games in the upcoming series against the Rangers. After that injury scare, it’s unclear if that day off will become more of a priority.

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