ANAHEIM, Calif. — Aaron Judge took another step toward history on Tuesday, hitting his 51st homer of the season.
And unlike his home run on Monday, this one helped spark a much-needed win, as they snapped a three-game losing streak with a 7-4 victory over the Angels at Angel Stadium to preserve their seven-game lead over second-place Tampa Bay in the AL East.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jameson Taillon said. “It feels like any time he’s up, there’s a chance for him to do something special. It doesn’t matter what scouting report you have or if you execute your pitch, he’s so good he can still hit it out all over the park.”
Judge is now just one homer shy of his career high set in his rookie season of 2017.
Taillon seemed to have avoided a serious injury after being drilled by a liner that forced him from the game after the second inning, diagnosed with a right forearm contusion.
Greg Weissert took over for Taillon to start the third and delivered another standout performance out of the bullpen, throwing two scoreless innings. He was the first of six relievers that combined to allow just two runs in seven innings out of the bullpen.
“They were awesome,” Taillon said. “When you hand the ball over to that many different people, there’s always a risk of an off night, but everyone who touched the mound was on.”
The Angels scored a run in the bottom of the ninth off Wandy Peralta, as Shohei Ohtani doubled and scored on Taylor Ward’s RBI single before pinch-hitter Matt Duffy lined to center to end it.
And the Yankees offend, which had been held to three runs or fewer in their previous four games, homered three times in the first four innings — all against right-hander Mike Mayers.
Andrew Benintendi hit a solo homer with one out in the top of the first and Anthony Rizzo led off the second with his 30th home run of the season — his second in as many games after hitting just one in his previous 17 games.
“He’s too talented and too good to have it last long,” Aaron Boone said of his slump.
But Taillon gave up the lead in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, former Yankee Mike Ford singled and Max Stassi followed with a blast to right-center to even the game at 2-2. It was the sixth straight start in which Taillon had allowed a homer.
The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the third with a leadoff walk by LeMahieu, a one-out single by Judge and a two-out walk to Rizzo. Josh Donaldson then hit a routine grounder to the left side of the infield, where third baseman Luis Rengifo cut off shortstop Andrew Velazquez to field the ball and then threw wildly to first to allow LeMahieu and Judge to score for a 4-2 Yankee lead.
They threatened again in the fourth with back-to-back two-out singles from LeMahieu and Benintendi before Judge went deep on a 1-2 pitch.
Judge hit third for just the sixth time this season, as Boone said he wanted to “switch the lineup … to try and find a combination that unlocks us a little bit and gives us a chance to score some points.”
Lucas Luetge replaced Weissert to start the fourth and gave up a home run to Ford, the first baseman’s second in as many night’s against his former team.
But Lou Trivino and Ron Marinaccio pitched scoreless innings and the offense did enough for a Yankee that entered 8-17 in their previous 25 games.
“I don’t feel we’re as far off as it seems with the struggles we’ve had,” Boone said before the game. “We’ve had a lot of close games. I think we have all the pieces to be a great club. We’ve got to get there. A lot of teams are capable of being great. We’ve got to go do it.”
For Judge, he now has 31 games to hit 10 homers to tie Roger Maris’ American League and franchise record of 61 set in 1961.
He also leads the majors with 113 RBIs and had a pair of singles in the win.