Judge hits 53rd HR, Yankees stop Rays, avoid 3-game sweep

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Judge led off the game with his league-leading 53rd homer and the New York Yankees held off the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 on Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep.

Judge hit a career high for the Homers, surpassing the 52 he hit as a rookie in 2017. He also doubled, singled and scored both of New York’s runs.

“We were focused on today,” Judge said. “We really weren’t focused the last two days and I think that helped us go out there and get it today.”

Frankie Montas (5-11) allowed one hit in five shutout innings as the AL East-leading Yankees extended their lead over Tampa Bay to five games. The Rays were down 15 1/2 games on July 10.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who watched the last half of the game after being ejected, greeted the players outside the clubhouse after the important win.

“It’s a lot scarier up here,” Boone said. “My pacemaker was kicking out the surge.”

Down 2-0, Tampa Bay tried to rally in the ninth against Clay Holmes, the Yankees’ fourth reliever. David Peralta led off with his second double of the game and scored on a one-out single by Francisco Mejia.

Jonathan Aranda doubled with two outs before Holmes struck out Yandy Díaz looking at a 3-2 pitch for his 18th save. Díaz had already thrown his bat aside and was heading toward first base when plate umpire Vic Carapazza called strike three. Diaz slammed his helmet to the ground.

Holmes’ last pitch was 101.7 mph, his fastest ever. His only other career triple-digit offering came earlier in the season also against Diaz.

“Yandy thought the ball was down,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Was he down? A strike? I’m not sure. … It’s a close pitch, there’s no doubt about it.”

Boone was ejected in the fifth inning by Carapazza for arguing after Tampa Bay’s Taylor Walls reached in catcher’s interference.

The stands emptied briefly when Josh Donaldson was called into question after a 3-0 pitch from Rays leadoff man Shawn Armstrong led off the second. Donaldson barked on the right, but there were no major incidents.

“It gets your attention,” Boone said. “Look, it just says download it. This is the competition of the moment.”

Judge connected on the second pitch of the game by Armstrong (2-2), sending traffic into the left field stands. The slugger, who had a ninth-inning homer in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Rays, flew out to the edge of the warning track in center with two out to end the eighth.

Judge led off the seventh with a double, advanced to third on DJ LeMahieu’s grounder and scored to make it 2-0 on a sacrifice bunt by Oswaldo Cabrera.

“Special player, he’s having an MVP season,” Cash said. “He is very difficult to deal with”

Montas (5-11), who struck out seven without a walk, was pulled after 93 pitches. The right-hander, 0-2 with a 7.01 ERA in his first five starts since being acquired from Oakland, had two outings earlier this season against the Rays while with the Athletics and limited them to an 18-plus 1 /3 innings. .

Tampa Bay loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh before Jonathan Loaisiga retired Díaz on broken at bats.

With runners on first and second with one out in the fifth, LeMahieu hit a foul that catcher Christian Bethancourt caught on a screen. Boone argued the ball looked into the net, but the call was overturned after a video review.

Later in the fifth, a struggling Giancarlo Stanton flied out to deep right with the bases loaded to end the inning. He went 0 for 5, and has four hits in 35 at-bats since returning from an Achilles injury.

TURN OUT

The announced crowd was a sellout at 25,025. The series average was 21,555, well above the Rays’ home season average of 14,023.

COACH ROOM

Yankees: Boone said OF Andrew Benintendi, injured on a swing Friday, will undergo surgery to repair a broken hook in his right hamstring. Boone said he didn’t know if it was a season-ending injury. … Boone hopes 1B Anthony Rizzo (lower back) will resume baseball activities Monday.

Rays: LHP Shane McClanahan (left shoulder impingement) threw 75 feet. … 2B Brandon Lowe (bruised right elbow) takes batting practice.

NEXT

Yankees: RHP Jameson Taillon (12-4) and Minnesota RHP Chris Archer (2-7) are Monday’s starters in New York. Taillon was hit in the right forearm by a batted ball Tuesday.

Rays: Will face Boston RHP Michael Wacha (10-1) on Monday.

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