When the Yankees were on the verge of a loss against a rising rival, they turned to the Captain and the Kid.
A game-tying home run from Aaron Judge and a game-winning sacrifice fly from Anthony Volpe handed the Yankees their season-best fifth straight victory, a 6-5, 10-inning decision over the Orioles on Tuesday night in The Bronx.
Down by one run and two outs from a loss, Judge crushed a hanging splitter from star closer Felix Bautista for his 14th homer of the season to rescue the Yankees and send the game into extra innings.
“He’s the best player in the world right now,” manager Aaron Boone said after Judge’s eighth homer in nine games.
Judge cannot come through every single time, can he?
“It seems plausible every time he gets to the plate,” Gerrit Cole (five innings, five runs) said with a smile.
What is unbelievable to others has become frankly expected from the American League home run record holder.
“I thought exactly what happened was going to happen,” Volpe said of Judge’s ninth-inning blast. “Everything he does he makes look easy.”
After excellent work from Michael King, who stranded the Orioles’ ghost runner on second base in the top of the 10th — with help from a nice jumping catch from Volpe — the Yankees made contact when they needed to.
In the 10th, a groundout from Harrison Bader moved pinch-running ghost runner Isiah Kiner-Falefa to third. Orioles pitcher Bryan Baker issued an intentional walk to Willie Calhoun, setting up the double play.
If Volpe has shown a weakness through his first 50 major league games, it is his tendency to swing and miss.
But Volpe connected and sent a long fly ball to center field for a sacrifice fly and was mobbed around first base.
“It has been fun to watch him navigate this with all eyes on him,” Boone said after Volpe’s first career walk-off. “He just handles everything so well and just has such a good head on his shoulders. Knows how to play, has just advanced in his approach and makeup.
“Felt like the right guy was up there right there.”
He wasn’t alone. Watching from the dugout, Judge also had faith in the 22-year-old rookie.
“He’s been swinging the bat well all year,” Judge said. “He’s been hitting the ball hard and hasn’t been getting rewarded.”
The Yankees (30-20) have won seven of their past eight after climbing out of a four-run hole in the fourth inning and one-run hole in the ninth.
As a result, they stole the first game of a series against a surging AL East rival.
“They’re a force. They are a problem,” Boone said before the game of the resurgent Orioles (31-17). “They’re a really good team.”
Before the late magic, a potential Yankees rally in the seventh inning unraveled when a curious bunt from DJ LeMahieu backfired.
The Yankees were down, 5-4, when they mounted a rally against Yennier Cano, who has been one of baseball’s best relievers and lowered his ERA to 0.35.
Still, singles from Gleyber Torres and Anthony Rizzo — just the eighth and ninth hits Cano has allowed all season — put the potential tying run on third base with one out.
LeMahieu, the cleanup hitter, attempted a squeeze bunt with Torres running on contact. The bunt went right to Cano, who flipped home to easily nab Torres.
After Bader grounded out to end the inning, plenty of boos were heard from a crowd of 40,652, who weren’t happy early in the game, either.
Cole, who gave up too many gopher balls on a night in which a squirrel in the outfield went viral, had dug the Yankees into a 4-0 hole by the fourth inning, when Bader launched his fifth home run of the season.
An inning later, the Yankees turned four hits into three runs to tie the game.
Rizzo’s double scored Oswaldo Cabrera before LeMahieu’s single scored Torres. Bader’s sacrifice fly brought home Rizzo to knot the game at 4-4.
The Orioles pushed across the go-ahead run in the next inning, when Cole allowed two singles before he was pulled.
Ron Marinaccio entered and a swinging bunt from Gunnar Henderson and an RBI groundout from Terrin Vavra gave the Orioles the lead.
It wouldn’t last because of the Captain and, later, his first mate.
“You just kind of look over and shake your head,” Boone said of Judge. “He’s done it again.”