Payday: Judge wins for Yankees on eve of pay clash

NEW YORK – Aaron Judge lined up a single win on the eve of their wage referee showdown, ending a four-run ninth inning that included Aaron Hicks tying Ryan Pressly’s three-run homer in the New York Yankees’ 7-6 win over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.

Hitting with two against Ryne Stanek, Judge hit a 3-0 splitter in the left corner of the field to score Jose Trevino from second base. It was the Yankees’ ninth win in 70 games this season — the most since 1943 — and one that looked very unlikely when they went into the last inning with just two hits.

New York opened a highly anticipated four-game series between the top two American League teams, winning for the 19th time in 22 games to improve to 52–18 – the third-best 70-game start in the major leagues since 1930.

New York also extended their winning streak at home to 15 games, the team’s longest since 1961.

The Yankees entered Thursday tied for the top of the major league with 20 comeback wins. #21 might be the most memorable.

Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a three-run homer in the first inning, led the ninth with a walk against Pressly, and Gleyber Torres tied another during a plate appearance that included a long delay because Torres had something in his eye.

Hicks hitter then dug in from the left side and smashed a no doubt to right field, just the third hit for the Yankees all night and the first since Stanton’s homer.

Hicks’ third homer of the season sent the crowd of 44,071 into a frenzy.

“This was a playoff atmosphere there,” Judge said. “When Hicks hit that homer, I looked at the stands, everyone was jumping and freaking out. This is a great series, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

Isiah Kiner-Falefa followed up with a single infield but was sent off trying to steal the second – a foul confirmed via replay.

Trevino then lined up a single, prompting manager Dusty Baker to pull Pressly (1-2). Trevino also had a two-run homer in the eighth inning of a 5-4 win at Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

Pressly, a two-time All-Star, came in with a 5.71 ERA in 18 career appearances against the Yankees, including the postseason.

Stanek walked with DJ LeMahieu, then trailed the referee 3-0 as fans serenaded the hitter with “MVP!” chants.

“I knew it was going to get the job done,” Judge said after his third career hit and second this season.

“That’s when this game is at its best, moments like that,” he added. “The crowd is on its feet, the game is on. They’re the moments in your backyard you dream about.”

Miguel Castro (4-0) worked a no-hit entry to victory.

Next up: an unusual in-season arbitration hearing on Friday — decisions are usually made in the offseason but were postponed after opening day due to the sport’s labor lockdown. Judge is asking for a salary of $21 million, while New York offered $17 million in his final season before coming to free agency.

Astros’ Alex Bregman and Stanton exchanged three-run homers in the first inning, and Houston’s Yordan Álvarez had another three-run shot in the third against Yankees starter Jameson Taillon.

Astros starter Framber Valdez has stabilized after a difficult first round. Jose Altuve had three hits and right fielder Kyle Tucker stole a potential homer in the eighth for Houston, but the Astros dropped to 43-26 on a rare night down to the Majors’ main bullpen.

Stanton became the first player to hit Valdez’s elite curveball this season, and the southpaw dodged his best shot after that – to stellar results. With a big dose of sinkers, Valdez knocked out seven in six innings, allowing just three runs in two hits, both in the first inning.

Valdez looked prepared to go deep in the game until Anthony Rizzo made a 16-shooter walk in the sixth. Valdez was withdrawn after 101 pitches.

Héctor Neris threw a perfect seventh, and Tucker helped Rafael Montero pass the eighth. After the umpire got to Bregman’s mistake at third base, Rizzo smoked what he thought was a two-run homer to the right. With Rizzo running for first, Tucker jumped off the wall and grabbed the line for the third exit.

Taillon allowed six races, a season record, interrupting a stellar first half after years of being hampered by ill health. Houston had 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings against the right-hander.

Fans have been fervent for the revival of a burgeoning baseball rivalry — Houston has knocked the Yankees out of three postseasons since 2015, including during the scandal-stained 2017 World Series campaign.

Bronx fans were delighted when Taillon dropped Altuve in the lead, but they sank back into their seats when Bregman hit his homer to left field moments later. The lull ended when Stanton counterattacked with his drive at the bottom of the entrance.

Álvarez, who scored twice against the Mets on Wednesday night, hit a low line of 180 km/h on the short porch of Yankee Stadium’s right field in the third. Álvarez’s 22 homers are second only to the referee’s 27 at the top of the major league.

MISSED BACKPACK

Yankees right defender Joey Gallo made a spectacular play in the second inning, running across the free-kick line and jumping into the wall of about 2.4 meters to get the ball from Martín Maldonado.

As has been the case for most of the season, Gallo wasn’t as sharp on the board, going 0-4 with three strikeouts.

COACH ROOM

Stars: SS Jeremy Peña (thumb discomfort) worked in the field, and Houston planned to evaluate him later. … DE Jake Meyers (left shoulder surgery) rejoined the team after completing a minor league rehab assignment, but was not activated.

Yankees: Traded RHP David McKay for Tampa Bay for cash, opted for RHP Clarke Schmidt for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and added RHP Albert Abreu to the active roster. Abreu was with the Yankees from 2017 to 21, mostly in the minors, but was traded in April to Texas by Trevino. Abreu has since been released by the Rangers and Royals, and New York claimed him from Kansas City this week.

NEXT

All-Star Justin Verlander (8-3, 2.30 ERA) pitches at Yankee Stadium for the first time since Game 5 of the 2019 AL Championship Series, a 4-1 loss in Houston. He is 3-4 with a 4.02 ERA in 10 career stadium games. He will face New York RHP Luis Severino (4-1, 3.27) on Friday night.

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