Yankees Gain Ground in Division, but Lose Aaron Judge
The Yankees on Thursday won a game over the Kansas City Royals, gained a game on the Boston Red Sox, and added their second All-Star pitcher of the week, but the day nevertheless ended under a cloud of gloom. During the victory, they lost Aaron Judge, the most dangerous hitter in their lineup, with a chip fracture of the right wrist.
The Yankees said Judge — who was hit by a pitch in the first inning by Royals starter Jakob Junis — would not need surgery but would need at least three weeks before he can swing a bat in a game situation.
The injury to Judge dampened what had been an otherwise wholly positive night for the Yankees, who welcomed their newly acquired pitchers Zach Britton and J.A. Happ to the Bronx in the afternoon and beat the Royals, 7-2, later in the evening in the first game of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.
But the loss of Judge, who leads the team with 26 home runs, shares the lead with 61 R.B.I., and has a team-high .946 on-base-plus slugging-percentage, was potentially far more important than a win over a team with the second-worst record in baseball, even if it did pull the Yankees to within four and a half games of the Red Sox, who lost to the Minnesota Twins.
“It’s definitely a blow,” Aaron Hicks said of Judge’s injury. “You’re talking about a guy who hit 50 home runs for us last year. He’s a big part of our lineup. If we lose him, we’ve got to figure a way to win games and keep pushing.”
Judge was hit on the knob of the right wrist by a Junis fastball clocked at 93 miles per hour. He remained in the game and even reached on an infield hit in the third inning when his soft liner fell between the pitcher and the first baseman.
But after taking some swings in the stadium’s indoor batting cage under observation by the Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames, Judge underwent an X-ray examination. That was inconclusive enough that Judge was sent to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for a magnetic resonance imaging test and a CT scan. The Yankees announced the results about an hour after the game ended.
“I’m concerned any time one of our players has to leave a game with something,” Manager Aaron Boone said before the diagnosis was known. “Judgie is so important to us, so we’ll just wait and hear what the diagnosis is and go from there.”
Judge’s injury was not the only one of the night for the Yankees. In the fifth inning, starter Sonny Gray tried to field a hard grounder with his bare hand and it slammed into the fleshy part of his thumb. He, too, remained in the game and finished the inning, but did not come out for the sixth despite having held the Royals scoreless on three hits and having thrown just 75 pitches.
The Yankees planned to send him for an X-ray as well but needed to wait until the X-ray technician returned with Judge from the hospital. “He can’t be in two places at once,” Boone said.
Gray, who won his third straight game, downplayed the severity of his injury, although he kept his right hand concealed in the pocket of his sweatshirt during a postgame interview.
“It feels O.K. I don’t think it’s anything too serious,” Gray said. “When I sat down I could feel it throbbing, but I fully expect to pitch in five or six days, whenever my next start is.”
The Yankees scored two runs, one of them unearned, in the first, off Junis, who had lost his previous seven starts. They got three more on a long home run by Didi Gregorius in the fourth, his 18th of the season but first at home since June 15.
The Royals got on the board with a two-run home run by Salvador Perez off Adam Warren in the sixth, but the Yankees got scoreless innings from David Robertson, Britton and Chasen Shreve in the final three innings. Britton, in his Yankees debut, needed just 10 pitches to retire the Royals in order in the eighth.