The New York Yankees earned three more wins in a highly charged series at Toronto, and perhaps nobody enjoyed those outcomes as much as Aaron Judge
Now Judge and the Yankees hope to avoid a letdown Friday night when they visit the Cincinnati Reds for the opener of a three-game series
The Yankees have 11 wins in their past 16 games since they were at .500 following a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians on May 1. They followed up a split at home last weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays by getting a huge series from Judge against the Blue Jays during a four-day span highlighted by accusations that the slugger was stealing signs
"I'm just trying to do my job," Judge said. "I was upset, but nothing I can do about that. I've still got to go out there and play."
Judge was 6-for-14 in the Toronto series with four homers and seven RBIs. Since returning on May 9 from a brief stint on the injured list, Judge is batting .324 (12-for-37) with six homers and 14 RBIs.
"We were focused on what we control between the lines," Judge said. "We did a pretty good job blocking out the noise and distractions the whole series. We just went out there and took care of our business."
New York rookie Anthony Volpe also homered on Thursday, Aaron Hicks collected three hits and the Yankees used the relief trio of Ryan Weber, Albert Abreu and Ron Marinaccio to handle the final three innings with Michael King, Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta unavailable
"I feel like we're rolling now," New York starting pitcher Nestor Cortes said. "I feel like we're playing really good baseball. The dugout is coming alive."
Cincinnati is returning home after splitting a six-game road trip against the Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies. The Reds were unable to win a third straight series when they collected 12 hits but blew a five-run lead and took an 11-6 loss to Colorado on Wednesday afternoon. The Rockies went 7-for-12 with runners in scoring position
Top prospect Matt McLain also made his major league debut for the Reds in the series. He sat out Wednesday after going 2-for-8 in his first two games. The 23-year-old UCLA product became the first player from the first round in 2021 to reach the majors
"Matt has great instincts, but he's also a smart player," Cincinnati manager David Bell said. "He's here for one thing -- to go out and win a baseball game."
Yankees right-hander Clarke Schmidt (1-4, 6.30 ERA) will seek his second career win as a starting pitcher on Friday
Schmidt got his first victory as a starter on May 9 when he pitched six innings against the Oakland A's but struggled immensely Sunday against Tampa Bay. He allowed a career-high seven runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings in an 8-7 loss to the Rays. It marked the sixth time in nine starts this year that Schmidt did not complete five innings, and he dropped to 1-7 with a 5.85 ERA in 14 career starts.
Ben Lively (1-1, 1.69 ERA), who joined the Reds on May 9 when Luis Cessa was designated for assignment, will get the ball for Cincinnati on Friday. He is set to make his first major league start since April 26, 2018, when he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Arizona Diamondbacks
Lively is 4-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 20 career starts, all with Philadelphia from 2017 to 2018. He has made a pair of relief outings and allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings for the Reds this year
Both starting pitchers will be facing their opponent for the first time.
--Field Level Media