NEW YORK (AP) Aaron Judge was used to the ribbing from Kyle Higashioka and Anthony Rizzo, a levity that has been missing of late as the New York Yankees sank from contention. They had three-homer games and Judge had none.
“He would always remind me, every game I'd have two and I couldn't get the third one: 'Hey, one of these days, kid, you'll join my club.'" Judge said with a smile.
He earned his membership on Wednesday night at a most opportune time.
Judge homered three times and tied his career high with six RBIs, almost single-handedly breaking the Yankees’ first nine-game losing streak in 41 years with a 9-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.
“We've kind of been waiting for that for a long time,” Higashioka said. “Now we have nothing to hold over his head.”
Two hours after general manager Brian Cashman called the season “a disaster,” Judge drove a first-inning curveball from MacKenzie Gore (6-10) to the opposite field over the Yankees bullpen in right-center. Judge opened a 6-0 lead in the second with his fifth career grand slam, a shot into the netting above Monument Park in center field.
“I left some pitches over the heart of the plate,” Gore said.
Then in the seventh Judge combined with DJ LeMahieu for back-to-back homers against Jose A. Ferrer, popping the ball over the right-field short porch just inside the foul pole.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who had a pair of three-homer games two decades ago, at first thought Judge accomplished the feat last season. Then the manager was corrected.
“So I had to welcome him to the club,” Boone said.
Judge is hitting .279 with 27 homers and 54 RBIs in 72 games. The reigning AL MVP, who had his 32nd multihomer game, entered in a 3-for-19 slide. He missed nearly eight weeks after spraining his right big toe against the Dodger Stadium fence on June 3 and returned before the injury fully healed.
“That hurt us,” Boone said. “Obviously you understand the blow that that was for us.”
Last-place New York (61-65) had been within a loss of what would have been its first 10-game losing streak since 1913, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before Judge’s first homer, the Yankees had gone 61 innings without leading since Aug. 14 at Atlanta, the third-longest stretch in franchise history behind 63 from Aug. 16-23, 1906, and 62 from Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2000.
Luis Severino (3-8) allowed one hit and matched a season high with 6 2/3 innings, ending an 0-4 stretch since he beat Kansas City on July 23. Severino lowered his ERA from 7.98 to 7.26. Catcher Keibert Ruiz had Washington’s lone hit against Severino, lining a two-out single to right in the fourth.
Severino was given a big ovation when he left the mound.
“I've been getting a lot of boos, so it's a good thing to have those fans cheering for me,” he said.
Dominic Smith homered for the Nationals with two outs in the ninth off Wandy Peralta, who followed Ian Hamilton and finished a three-hitter.
Gore dropped to 0-3 in his last five starts He gave up six runs - just two earned - and four hits in four innings. Washington had won eight of its previous 10.
He was let down by his defense when center fielder Lane Thomas lost Higashioka’s second-inning fly in the twilight and the ball glanced off right fielder Stone Garrett's glove for a two-base error
Garrett hurt his lower left leg trying to deny LeMahieu’s home run and was taken off the field in a cart.
“I think his ankle is OK but I don’t know,” manager Dave Martinez said.
Harrison Bader slid across the plate in the second on rookie Everson Pereira’s grounder as Ruiz dropped the throw from shortstop CJ Abrams. A day after making his big league debut, the 22-year-old Pereira was credited with his first RBI.
New York RF Giancarlo Stanton made a jumping catch on Smith near the top of the wall in the seventh.
ON THE FARM
Jasson Domínguez, a top 20-year-old OF, had three hits and three RBIs on Tuesday in his Triple-A debut for the Yankees’ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre farm team.
Yankees: OF Billy McKinney’s lower left back spasm is not thought to be serious, manager Aaron Boone said.
New York RHP Michael King (3-5, 3.26) ) and Washington LHP Patrick Corbin (8-11. 4.71) start Thursday’s series finale.
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