Aaron Judge’s homer spree continues, Cortes chokes Sox to gift Yankees home victory

Aaron Judge and Nestor Cortes are seen in action during theYankees' 4-2 win over the White Sox on May 17, 2024, at Yankee Stadium.

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Aaron Judge’s early-season struggles are now a distant memory as the Yankees’ slugger continues to put on a spectacular display of power hitting. In Friday’s 4-2 victory over the struggling White Sox, Judge set the tone with a mammoth 433-foot solo home run in the bottom of the first inning off Chicago starter Mike Clevinger. The Yankees have now won five straight games and boast an impressive 11-2 record over their last 13 contests.

Judge’s first-inning blast, his 12th of the season, rocketed off his bat at a blistering 114.4 mph and landed in the second deck of the left-field stands. The home run was part of an incredible stretch that has seen the Yankees’ star slugger collecting seven extra-base hits in his last three games and seven hits in his previous eight at-bats. His 12 homers this season put him just one behind the MLB lead.

In addition to his prodigious power, Judge demonstrated his patience at the plate, drawing three walks, including one intentional pass. The Yankees slugger scored twice during his 1-for-1 performance, including a run on an Alex Verdugo double in the fourth inning, boosting his season average to .267.

New York Yankees Aaron Judge (99) celebrates with Anthony Rizzo, right, after hitting a home run against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, May 17, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Noah K. Murray

Judge’s recent surge is a stark contrast to his performance through the first 33 games of the season, during which he hit just .197 with 12 extra-base hits. In the 13 games since, however, the Yankees captain has been on a tear, going 20-for-43 (.465) with an astounding 15 extra-base hits, including six home runs, cementing his status as one of the most feared hitters in the game.

Aaron Judge‘s ability to maintain a level-headed approach during his early-season slump has been a key factor in his recent resurgence at the plate. Rather than succumbing to frustration, Judge focused on contributing to the team’s success in any way possible, recognizing that dwelling on his personal struggles would only detract from the Yankees’ overall performance.

“If I’m sitting here worried about my struggles and how I’m doing, that’s taking away from the team,” Judge said after Friday’s win. “It’s about going out there and winning games, so if you’re not hitting, if things aren’t going your way, you have to find other ways to help the ballclub.”

Judge’s remarkable turnaround has been nothing short of spectacular. In Wednesday’s win over the Minnesota Twins, he went a perfect 4-for-4 with three doubles and a home run, followed by two more doubles in Thursday’s series sweep. His recent hot streak can be attributed to “just not missing the ball,” as he put it after Friday’s victory.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone praised Judge’s unwavering demeanor, noting that regardless of whether he was experiencing a hot streak or enduring a slump, Judge’s interactions with the team remained consistent. The skipper considered this a testament to his captain’s character, acknowledging that while players inevitably face difficult stretches, he wasn’t overly concerned about Judge’s prolonged struggles. Boone believed it was simply a matter of Judge finding his timing and rhythm, which he has now successfully achieved.

Yankees' Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo converse during their 4-2 win over the White Sox on May 17, 2024, at Yankee Stadium.
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“More than anyone I’ve ever been around, you can’t tell when he’s on this kind of roll or if he’s had a series where he’s had real struggles,” he said of Judge. “Can’t tell by his interactions with the club. Testament to who he is.”

Judge wasn’t the only Yankees star to inflict damage on Chicago’s pitching staff. The Yankees’ offensive onslaught featured five hits with exit velocities of at least 102.6 mph, including Giancarlo Stanton‘s fourth-inning RBI double (106.5 mph) and his monstrous sixth-inning solo home run (116.2 mph). Stanton’s 417-foot blast marked his 10th home run of the season, further highlighting the Yankees’ formidable power throughout the lineup.

As the Yankees continue to ride the wave of their recent success, Judge’s ability to overcome his early-season challenges and deliver consistently impressive performances has been instrumental in the team’s pursuit of victory.

Yankees’ Cortes hoodwinks Sox bats

nestor-cortes-new-york-yankees
AP

Nestor Cortes, the Yankees’ left-handed pitcher, continued his remarkable run of dominance at Yankee Stadium, stifling the offensively challenged Chicago White Sox and allowing just one unearned run over seven stellar innings. Cortes, who has been virtually untouchable at home this season, showcased his efficiency and excellence on the mound, striking out six batters while scattering five hits.

The White Sox, who entered the game with the lowest batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in the majors, struggled to generate any offense against Cortes. Despite surrendering an unearned run in the third inning, the Yankees star navigated through the White Sox lineup with ease, pitching around a pair of singles in the first inning.

In the sixth inning, with two outs and the bases empty, Cortes found himself in a brief confrontation with umpire Laz Diaz. After employing his signature hesitation delivery and firing a pitch well above the strike zone to Corey Julks, Diaz called Cortes for a violation, automatically adding a ball to the count. The incident sparked a short-lived dispute involving Cortes and manager Aaron Boone, but play quickly resumed.

Cortes’ home-road splits have been a topic of discussion this season, with the lefty posting a sparkling 1.27 ERA over 35.1 innings at Yankee Stadium, in stark contrast to his 6.75 ERA in 25.1 innings on the road. Despite the extreme disparity, the Yankees pitcher remains determined to identify and address the underlying factors contributing to this discrepancy.

“It’s almost like we’re in competition with each other,” he said. “We’re not, but we’re just trying to give as much length as possible. The last game we lost was the [May 11] game I pitched in Tampa, so I made sure today wasn’t the day we lost again.”

Friday’s masterful performance marked the third time this season that Cortes has delivered a start of at least seven innings without allowing an earned run at Yankee Stadium. Coincidentally, his gem came on the 26th anniversary of fellow lefty David Wells’ perfect game, also pitched at the iconic ballpark.

Yankees Nestor Cortes pitches against the White Sox on May 17, 2024, at Yankee Stadium.
AP

The Yankees’ starting rotation has been on a remarkable run, with Friday marking the fifth straight game in which a starter has gone at least six innings while allowing one run or fewer. This impressive streak spans a full turn through the rotation, showcasing the team’s pitching prowess.

Nestor Cortes, who took the mound on Friday, jokingly mentioned that the starters seem to be in a friendly competition with each other, pushing one another to provide as much length as possible in their outings. Cortes also noted that the last game the Yankees lost was the one he pitched in Tampa on May 11, motivating him to ensure that their current game didn’t result in another loss.

In the eighth inning, reliever Ian Hamilton encountered some trouble, surrendering a double to Tommy Pham and an RBI single to Andrew Vaughn, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 4-2. A pinch-hit double by Gavin Sheets sent Vaughn to third, prompting the entrance of Caleb Ferguson. Closer Clay Holmes sealed the victory with a scoreless ninth, securing his 13th save of the season.

The Yankees’ five-game winning streak, fueled by their starters’ stellar performances, has propelled them to an American League-best record of 31-15, while the struggling White Sox fell to 14-31.

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