Yankees up ante as Aaron Judge hit by pitch, threaten Orioles to intensify rivalry

Yankees' Aaron Judge leaves the game after getting hit by a 94mph fastball against the Baltimore Orioles on 18th June, 2024.
New York Post

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When a fastball slammed into Aaron Judge’s hand, it did more than just elicit winces around Yankee Stadium—it may have just sparked a brand new fiery chapter in the escalating rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. Clay Holmes delivered a nerve-wracking ninth inning, surrendering a two-run homer that slashed the Yankees’ lead to a precarious two runs.

Despite the scare, Holmes managed to regroup and secure the victory, though the collective exhale from fans only came after an update on Aaron Judge’s condition. The series began with high stakes, particularly for the Yankees following their defeat to the Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Orioles, fresh off a victory against the Phillies—the team with the best record in baseball—closed the gap on the Yankees atop the AL East. But the real question looms: Is this the dawn of a new rivalry in the AL East?

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge reacts to getting hit by a pitch from Baltimore Orioles’ Albert Suárez during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Pamela Smith

A heated battle in the Bronx

In a crucial AL East showdown, the New York Yankees (51-24) took on the Baltimore Orioles (47-25) at Yankee Stadium. The tension was palpable even before the first pitch, as both teams knew the significance of this series. The Yankees, with a three-game lead over the Orioles, were determined to assert their dominance, and the Orioles were equally eager to close the gap.

The game started with Yankees starter Nestor Cortes delivering a masterful performance, and eventually throwing six scoreless innings and securing the win. However, the real drama began in the bottom of the third inning when Yankees captain Aaron Judge took a 94 mph fastball from Orioles pitcher Albert Suárez to the left hand. Aaron Judge, visibly in pain, stayed in the game long enough to score on Giancarlo Stanton’s RBI but was later replaced by Trent Grisham. The initial fear among fans and teammates was palpable, reminiscent of Aaron Judge’s past injury in 2018 when he fractured his wrist under similar circumstances.

The intensity of the game only escalated from there. In the fifth inning, Gleyber Torres was hit by another 94 mph fastball, this time from Orioles reliever Keegan Akin. Wearing a guard, Torres stayed in the game, but the Yankees’ patience was wearing thin. Alex Verdugo, visibly angry, issued a warning to Akin, highlighting the growing animosity between the teams: “Just me and you… and after I’m done with you, I’m gonna f*** that guy up.”

Nestor Cortes, maintaining his composure, responded by brushing back Orioles star Gunnar Henderson with an up-and-in fastball in the sixth inning. While Cortes insisted it was “strictly pitching,” the message was clear: the Yankees were not going to back down. The game ended with a 4-2 victory for the Yankees, but the focus was on the brewing rivalry and the health of their captain.

Yankees players weren’t happy that captain Aaron Judge got hit

Aaron Judge, who has been a cornerstone for the Yankees, expressed his frustration but remained level-headed about the incident. “Not really looking [out] for anything,” Aaron Judge said. “I was more pissed in the moment for myself. Like, nobody wants to get hit. We’re trying to go out there and compete and do our thing. Stuff like that happens.” Aaron Judge’s relief at the negative X-ray and CT scan results was shared by fans and teammates alike. “It’s a big relief,” Aaron Judge said. “Just, being hit there before a couple of years ago and breaking my wrist, you never know what’s going to happen. So finding out that it’s not fractured, not broken, is definitely a sigh of relief.”

Alex Verdugo, who was vocal during and after the game, echoed the sentiments of many Yankees players. “We don’t take what happened lightly,” Verdugo said. “These are our guys. And obviously [our] captain, it’s a big one for us, so none of us are too pleased about it. But at the same time, I don’t believe it was intentional. A couple of pitches got away from their guys.”

Nestor Cortes, who played a pivotal role in the Yankees’ victory, also weighed in on the incident. “You shouldn’t be throwing that close to the head,” Cortes said. “Regardless of if it’s Judge or anyone else, we don’t want any of our guys getting pitched up and in.”

Juan Soto added to the conversation, acknowledging the frustration but emphasizing the unintentional nature of the pitches. “It’s tough. It’s a tough moment in the game,” Soto said. “We all know that they didn’t try to hit Judge right there, but it’s a little frustrating. It’s a little uncomfortable.”

According to reports, Aaron Judge helped Juan Soto feel at home in New York, and this might be one of the reasons Soto has been shining with the Yankees.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles, on their part, tried to downplay the incident. Gunnar Henderson, who was brushed back by Cortes, remarked, “Just a competitive pitch. I didn’t really think anything of it. Obviously, you don’t want to see that. He’s an unreal hitter, so you’ve got to make difficult pitches, and it just kind of, unfortunately, went up and in.”

Yankees fans weren’t happy either

The Yankees’ fanbase was understandably incensed by the events of the game. Social media was abuzz with reactions ranging from calls for retaliation to concerns over Judge’s health. “Classic dirty Orioles unreal,” wrote one fan on X/Twitter. “Drill their hitter,” added another. The fear of losing Judge to a significant injury was a recurring theme, with many fans recalling his past struggles with injuries.

The victory over the Orioles improved the Yankees’ record to 51-24, solidifying their position at the top of the AL East. However, the series is far from over, and the tension is expected to carry over into the next games, even though Alex Verdugo believed otherwise. The Yankees will rely on their ace, Gerrit Cole, to continue their winning streak and maintain their lead in the division.

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