Aaron Judge hands Yankees a no-call win over Astros

The two best teams in the American League played a game of ball under the sun, punctuated by home runs. Jose Altuve drove the first pit...


The two best teams in the American League played a game of ball under the sun, punctuated by home runs. Jose Altuve drove the first pitch over the left field wall, and Aaron Judge did the same until the last pitch. More than 44,000 fans gathered at Yankee Stadium for the fourth straight day. Some even stayed for post-game promotion, playing catch on their dream field.

It was baseball as it should be, as the Mets said in the 80s, and maybe we really will have a Subway series at the end of October. But the road to the AL pennant still goes through Houston, and the Astros plan to keep it that way. The Yankees came back to beat them on Sunday, 6-3 in 10 inningsbut it was probably their toughest test of the season.

“The fans just know that these two teams, we’re probably going to see each other a lot later,” said Judge, who connected right-handed reliever Seth Martinez for his game-winning three-run homer.

“We’ve seen each other a lot in the last few years in the playoffs. Every time we play it will be a good ball game, and the fans are anticipating that. They bring their energy from the first throw, and that’s what you love. You’re looking forward to these weekends, playing good teams and kind of seeing where you stand in the AL.”

The Yankees are 53-20, seven and a half games better than the Astros, but they really had to work for a four-game series. They went 16 hitless innings — eighth Friday through seventh Sunday — and needed big hits from Judge to win Games 1 and 4.

“It was Judge 2, Us 2,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

It was compelling theater, marred only by fans’ weary act of booing Altuve for the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017. Another member of that team, Marwin Gonzalez, now plays for the Yankees, and two others – Carlos Beltr├ín and Cameron Maybin – calling games on YES Network. But only Altuve beat Judge that season for the AL Most Valuable Player award.

Judge is the big favorite this season; he now leads the majors with 28 homers, on a 62 pace, one more than Roger Maris hit in 1961. He finished Thursday’s game with a long single to the corner of left field and homered to finish a game with Toronto last month.

“Unreal,” said Giancarlo Stanton. “He came in big for us whenever we needed him.”

The last Yankee with three hits in a season was Melky Cabrera in 2009, the year they won their last World Series title. The Yankees haven’t returned at this point, bounced most often by the Astros, who ousted them in the playoffs in 2015, 2017 and 2019 — and caused at least a mild scare this weekend.

“I don’t believe in having anybody’s number,” Baker said Sunday, in the dugout before batting practice. “It depends on how you are playing at that time and also how many of your front row players are out, how your guys are throwing; there are a lot of factors in there, especially in a short series. I don’t believe in having guy numbers – and I don’t believe anyone doesn’t have our Number.”

While the Astros stay in town to face the Mets this week, the Yankees host the Oakland Athletics on Monday for a three-game series. The A’s have the worst record of the majors, at 25-49, and through Saturday were at .211 overall. That would be the worst batting average by an AL team in over a century.

The A’s staged a liquidation sale as soon as the lockout ended in March, ditching a few expensive veterans and retaining a top starter, right-hander Frankie Montas, to peddle at the trading deadline. Several other teams — Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Washington, the Chicago Cubs — have been just as desperate this season.

When these teams take on the contenders, it’s a mismatch and everyone knows it — the opposite of the tense, engrossing weekend the Yankees and Astros just had. This was not what players envisioned during the lockout, when they looked for ways to promote a more competitive landscape in the league.

The collective bargaining agreement the players have reached with team owners includes a lottery for the top six spots in the draft, an additional wildcard spot in each league and incentives to promote top prospects for the matchday. opening, instead of hiding them in the minors to manipulate service time. But change takes time.

“Hopefully next year and the year after that you’ll see more teams competing,” said Yankees’ Zack Britton, a relief pitcher who served on the union’s executive subcommittee. “But I think it’s really the teams that are competing and then there’s, like, the bottom. There really isn’t much in the middle right now, although more teams have access to the playoffs and things like that.

“The hope was that it would get better as we move forward, that by year five of this CBA, we would see changes. I’m not sure we expected that to be the case right away, just because of the way the teams were structured last year and the year before.

The goal, Britton said, was to limit the rewards of sustained loss and discourage those endless phases of rebuilding. Not every team can do that and become the Astros, a powerhouse that showed the Yankees that sprinting to the World Series — even in a season charmed by the Bronx — won’t be a sure thing.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Aaron Judge hands Yankees a no-call win over Astros
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