It was like a flashback that the Yankees hope to see more of in the future. After being shut out in the afternoon opener, the one-time Baby Bombers rallied the Yankees in the nightcap with sheer power on Thursday.
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez homered as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 5-3, in the second game while splitting the doubleheader against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees (29-21) improved to 3-6 against the Blue jays (25-24) this season, but with the loss in the afternoon they still dropped their third series to their American League East rivals this season. It was the first series the Yankees have lost in their last 11, dating back to April 16-18, when they were swept by the Rays.
Sanchez hit his first homer in 11 games in the fourth inning. He crushed it 444 feet into the visitors bullpen in left-center field. He also singled in the sixth for his fourth multi-hit game of the season and his second since April 7.
Over the last year, Sanchez has lost his starting job and is in a platoon with Kyle Higashioka, but the Yankees keep hoping to see the slugging “Kraken,” from 2017 and 2019 reemerge.
Aaron Boone saw good signs Thursday night.
“I thought he looked great all night,” The Yankees manager said. “Obviously the homer gives us the lead in a huge swing but again, looking at the entire at bat it was a really good at bat. ... I think he did a good job behind the plate. So obviously we needed it tonight.”
In the third inning, with DJ LeMahieu on and two outs, Judge smoked a 440-foot home run right into Monument Park to tie the game at 3-3. It was his 12th of the season. Four of his last six home runs have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead.
The Yankees have suffered multiple injury blows this week — Aaron Hicks (wrist) likely out for the season, Luke Voit (oblique) expected to miss several weeks and starter Corey Kluber (shoulder) out for at least two months. If they could get Sanchez going with Judge, like back during the 2017 run to the ALCS, it would take a lot of pressure off the pitching and the rest of the lineup.
“Some of the injuries are part of the game and when they happen, we have a lot of guys that can step up and help this team,” Sanchez said. “Just like [Estevan Florial]. That’s what you want is for our teammates to recover, find their health and get back as soon as possible and help this team.”
It was at least an encouraging ending for the Yankees, who were looking for some offense after having been dominated by rookie right-hander Alek Manoah, who made his major league debut by throwing six scoreless against the Yankees. The Yankees lost that first game 2-0.
The Yankees managed just two hits — err, Miguel Andujar had two hits in the opening game against Manoah. They could not get a runner into scoring position against him. He struck out seven and walked two with a loud and proud group of about 20 friends and family cheering him on.
“His fastball played up a little bit. It looked like he moved it around, mixed in a secondary well,” Aaron Boone said pf Manoah. “I thought the middle innings were a little bit challenging when the shadows rolled in for both sides, but he was in control the entire game. Four pitches for a walk to start the game and then he got his command in line and had three pitches going for him and we just obviously didn’t mount much.”
While Manoah was impressive, it was another red flag for the Yankees offense.
The Yankees have scored just 20 runs over their last eight games and have been desperately looking for some offensive help.
They’ve already lost Hicks, who came into the season expecting to be the No. 3 hitter, after needing surgery on his left wrist. They’ve had 2020 Home Run King, Voit, for all of 12 games this season, after beginning the year on the injured list for knee surgery rehab and going back on it Thursday with an oblique strain.
The Yankees went into Thursday’s doubleheader with the worst OPS at center field (.585) and the lowest WAR among outfielders (0.1) in the big leagues. They were 28th in MLB at first base with a .544 OPS.