NEW YORK — Aaron Judge insists he’s not quite locked in at the plate yet. Tell that to his teammates — or the Boston Red Sox.
The big slugger homered twice and drove in five runs, connecting for the fifth straight game and breaking an eighth-inning tie with a tape-measure shot that powered the New York Yankees past Boston 9-7 on Sunday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
“I really think he’s on a mission right now,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Luke Voit also went deep in a back-and-forth slugfest to help the Yankees (7-1) finish a three-game sweep in the first series this season between the longtime rivals. New York has won six in a row and 11 of 12 against Boston since last July.
“Awesome game,” leadoff man DJ LeMahieu said. “Just one of those games, you know, we kind of all had the feeling we were going to win and we were going to push in front at some point.”
LeMahieu tied it 7-all in the eighth with a two-out RBI single off Matt Barnes (0-1) past diving second baseman José Peraza. The clutch hit came after Mike Tauchman, who entered on defence in the seventh, walked and stole second.
“We needed that win,” Barnes said. “Two outs and can’t walk the 9-hole hitter.”
Judge then launched a 2-0 breaking ball, a no-doubt drive projected at 468 feet that landed several rows up in the raised bleachers beyond the left-centre bullpen for his sixth home run already this year.
With no fans allowed at Yankee Stadium because of the coronavirus, teammates in the dugout were easily heard bellowing in excitement when Judge connected.
“Not locked in yet. Still trying to find it,” he said. “I’m feeling good.”
Judge also socked a three-run shot in the second off the facing of the second deck in left, making him the first Yankees player since Álex Rodríguez in September 2007 to homer in five straight games.
“He’s healthy, man. He’s a stud,” Voit said. “He’s in a groove right now. It’s a guy that you don’t want to take your eyes off when he’s hitting.”
Xander Bogaerts went 4 for 4 with two homers, a double, three RBIs and three runs for Boston (3-7). Rafael Devers put the Red Sox ahead 7-6 with a titanic drive of his own to right-centre in the seventh.
Devers and Christian Vázquez each had an RBI single in a three-run third, when Boston took advantage of shaky defence by centre fielder Aaron Hicks and left fielder Miguel Andújar, a converted third baseman who committed a costly error.
Adam Ottavino (1-0) worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings as New York’s bullpen and bats bailed out James Paxton, ineffective again in his second start of the season following February back surgery.
The left-hander averaged a career-low 91.5 mph on the 34 fastballs he threw among 62 pitches.
“I’m concerned,” Paxton said. “Trying to do everything I can to figure out what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s just going to take some time to build it back up.”
Zack Britton got three quick outs for his third save.
“Anytime you lose a game like this is tough,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s tough, too, when you have it set up like you want to.”
It was Judge’s 10th career multi-homer game and first since July 5 last year at Tampa Bay.
“He has been all over everything,” Barnes said.
New York also got successive RBI doubles with two outs in the third from Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela, who had three hits.
The Yankees have scored 24 of their last 26 runs on homers — 20 in a row until Sánchez’s double. … Judge matched Rodríguez (2007) for the most homers by a Yankees hitter through the first eight games of a season.
Red Sox: Following a night off, slumping J.D. Martinez was back in the lineup playing right field — giving Vázquez a breather as the DH rather than catching. Roenicke said he considered using Martinez as a pinch-hitter Saturday, but the veteran slugger has a lengthy routine when getting ready and both preferred a full night off.
Yankees: All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman has thrown on back-to-back days since rejoining the Yankees following a bout with the coronavirus. The team hopes he’ll throw a bullpen Monday. “He’s doing great,” Boone said. “Everything’s gone well.”
Red Sox: After five days in New York and 10 games in 10 days to begin the season, the Red Sox get two days off this week. They open a two-game series Tuesday night at Tampa Bay, with RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-0) on the mound against two-time All-Star Charlie Morton (0-1).
Yankees: RHP Gerrit Cole (2-0, 3.09 ERA) makes his first home start for the Yankees when they face RHP Jake Arrieta and the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night. The right-hander signed a $324 million, nine-year contract as a free agent last off-season. “I know obviously his history of being a lifelong Yankee fan and knowing how much it meant to him coming here and being a part of this team and pitching for this franchise, and I know it’ll be a big deal for him putting those pinstripes on for real for the first time in a real game,” Boone said. The teams were originally scheduled to meet four times last week, but the Phillies haven’t played since July 26 because of COVID-19 concerns after hosting the Miami Marlins, who had a major outbreak.