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Furious rally squandered by Judge's homer
By Barry M. Bloom and Kaelen Jones
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ANAHEIM -- Aaron Judge (No. 32 overall, 2013 Draft, Fresno State) crushed a go-ahead, two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning to lift the Yankees over Los Angeles, 5-3, to capture Monday's series opener at Angel Stadium.
"Baseball is a game of opportunities," said Judge, who struck out in his first two at-bats. "As I always say, you may fail -- one time, two times, four times -- but you always have the opportunity on the next pitch to change the game."
Angels reliever Bud Norris (6th round, 2006 Draft, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) served up the hard-hitting Judge a 91-mph cutter the 25-year-old launched a projected 438 feet, according to Statcast™.
Judge now leads the American League in on-base percentage (.450), slugging percentage (.718) and on-base plus slugging (1.168), as Angels outfielder Mike Trout (No. 25 overall, 2009 Draft, Millville HS, N.J.) -- who's missed his club's last 13 games with a torn UCL in his left thumb -- no longer qualifies for any of those categories.
Judge's round-tripper was the rookie's Major League-leading 22nd of the season, and his fourth in the last three games.
Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said he considered walking Judge prior to the go-ahead shot.
"You tip your cap," he said. "He hit it a long way."
The blast spoiled the Angels' frantic rally that tied the game during the seventh frame. Danny Espinosa (No. 87 overall, 2008 Draft, Long Beach State) and Cameron Maybin (No. 10 overall, 2005 Draft, Roberson HS in N.C.) connected on back-to-back two-out RBI base hits to even the contest at 3-3.
New York starter Masahiro Tanaka made a sound recovery after giving up a first-inning solo home run to Kole Calhoun (8th round, 2010 Draft, Arizona State). The Japanese right-hander retired 17 of the next 21 batters he faced -- including 13 straight -- allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out eight batters over 6 2/3 innings en route to picking up a no-decision.
Angels starter Alex Meyer (No. 23 overall pick, 2011 Draft, University of Kentucky) struck out five batters, but permitted five walks and five hits on 92 total pitches over 4 2/3 innings.
Meyer said he felt he should have found a way to pitch further into the contest, attributing walks and inefficiency to his early exit.
"I want to be a guy that they can rely on, that every time I go out there that I might put us in good position to win a ballgame," he said. "Tonight, my stuff was good enough where I should have put us in a better position to win the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Tanaka escapes the jam: Tanaka rolled Luis Valbuena into a groundout to end the bottom of the sixth inning with the Yankees leading, 2-1. Yunel Escobar (No. 75 overall, 2005 Draft) had slotted a double into the gap at right-center during the previous at-bat, putting runners on second and third with two outs. However, Tanaka only needed one pitch -- an 89.7-mph splitter -- to end Los Angeles' best scoring chance of the game and goad Valbuena into a harmless groundout.
"You want your pitchers to get through it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He got comfortable. I thought his sliders were pretty good, and I thought his splitters were pretty good tonight, too."
It's rally time! Espinosa ended Tanaka's evening when he slapped a two-out RBI single into left field, drawing the Angels within one run during the bottom of the seventh. He scored on the following at-bat, when Maybin laced a double off Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard (9th round, 2003 Draft, J W. Mitchell HS in Fla.), tying the game, 3-3, in the bottom of the seventh.
"We were definitely considering it." -- Scioscia, on whether he considered walking Judge before his go-ahead home run in the eighth
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Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius went 4-for-4 with two RBIs in the win. The four hits tied a career high for the infielder and raised his batting average to .344.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: The Yanks have left-hander CC Sabathia going in the middle game of the three-game set Tuesday in a 10:07 p.m. ET start at Angel Stadium. Sabathia has won five in a row, including his last start this past Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium when he held the Red Sox scoreless on five hits for eight innings of an 8-0 victory.
Angels: Los Angeles will hand the ball to right-hander JC Ramirez for Tuesday night's matchup with the Yankees. The Angels have won seven of Ramirez's (6-4, 4.33 ERA) last nine starts, while he's posted a 3.74 ERA (23 runs over 55 1/3 innings) over that span. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. PT.