PITTSBURGH (AP) — Aaron Judge felt like he was “stuck” with 29 home runs for “a little bit.”
Of course, “little” is a relative term when it comes to the New York Yankees slugger. What Judge considered a drought was actually a four-game stretch.
A strong swing put Judge back on track and helped the Yankees start the second half of their schedule with a bang.
Judge sent a laser into the left field seats in the eighth inning for his third career grand slam — and 30th homer of the season, most in the majors — as New York hammered the Pittsburgh Pirates 16-0 on the night Wednesday to separate the two of them. – interleague game set.
Aaron Hicks added a grand slam of his own an inning later on a night when the Yankees hit six total home runs to push their team total to a league-leading 139 hits.
Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, Joey Gallo and Kyle Higashioka also arrived in New York to support Luis Severino.
“Games like this get kids started,” Judge said. “Guys had good at-bats, put some balls in the gaps and all of a sudden guys take off for a week or two or a whole month or even the rest of the season.”
It’s a zone Judge seems to have been in since opening day. Hours after Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner admitted he might need a record deal to keep Judge from reaching free agency next winter, the player was worth every penny. He finished with three of New York’s 22 hits while becoming the first Yankees player to reach the 30-homer plateau before the All-Star break twice in his career.
It’s a number that left New York coach Aaron Boone shaking his head.
“It’s hard for me to understand,” said Boone, who never hit more than 26 home runs in a season during his 12-year career. “So it was pretty impressive, whatever — halfway in here — the kind of baseball he’s playing. Obviously the power was right there.”
Hicks cleared the bases in the ninth when he singled deep against Pirates reliever Josh VanMeter, who pitched his third inning of relief of the season.
“It seems like any of these guys could hit a homer at any time,” VanMeter said. “You just go out there and throw strikes and whatever happens happens, really. You are not out there to compete. You’re just trying to save the pitchers’ arms and get them up.”
Severino (5-3) allowed four hits in six dominant innings, striking out three without a walk to pick up his first win in more than a month. The right-hander retired 12 runs and 18 of the last 20 batters he faced after giving up a single to Ke’Bryan Hayes and a double to Bryan Reynolds to start the bottom of the first.
The win ended a two-game skid for New York, which began the second half of the season with the same recipe that led the Yankees to the majors’ best record and the second-best start in franchise history through 81 games: dominant pitching and plenty of power.
After using some small ball to take a 2-0 lead in the fourth, thanks in part to a hit-and-run and a stolen base, Donaldson and Gallo took Mitch Keller (2-6) deep twice on three pitches. the sixth that broke it.
New York was just getting started, adding one in the seventh, then five in the eighth and six in the ninth to improve to 3-3 on a four-city, 10-game road trip.
“It’s hard to contain that lineup,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “You don’t see that happen very often. They score a ton of runs and (Judge) is the catalyst for that.”
Reynolds had two of Pittsburgh’s four hits, but the Pirates could muster little against Severino and three New York relievers.
Keller worked in and out of trouble over six innings, allowing four runs on 10 hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. It was long gone when New York overwhelmed Pittsburgh’s overtaxation.
Yankees: Kept 1B Anthony Rizzo out of lineup for second straight game with back stiffness. Boone indicated that Rizzo would likely miss Thursday’s game in Boston as well.
Pirates: OF Greg Allen (hamstring) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Class A Bradenton. Allen, claimed off waivers by the Yankees last fall, has not played all season.
ON THE GO
The Yankees reinstated reliever Miguel Castro from the restricted list and designated reliever Ryan Weber for assignment.
Pittsburgh reinstated reliever Yerry De Los Santos from the COVID-19 list. The Pirates optioned reliever Cam Vieaux to Triple-A Indianapolis and designated reliever Austin Brice for assignment.
Yankees: Head to Boston for the first time this season when they begin a four-game weekend series at Fenway Park on Thursday night. Gerrit Cole (7-2, 2.99 ERA) faces Boston’s Josh Winckowski (3-2, 3.12) in the opener.
Pirates: Play a day-night doubleheader at Cincinnati on Thursday.
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