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Aaron Judge continues power surge as New York Yankees beat Tampa Bay Rays

By
Larry Fleisher, The Sports Xchange

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge is someone whose size makes him a candidate for fans and teammates to anticipate his next swing and see how far he can drive a ball. In the last three games, the 6-foot-7 right fielder is turning anticipation into home runs, and his latest drive was a rarity at Yankee Stadium.

Judge hit a mammoth two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon and the New York Yankees rallied for an 8-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays to start 2-0 at home.

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Judge became the first player to hit a ball off the glass facing of the sports bar in straightaway center field on two occasions. Judge, Carlos Correa, Brandon Allen and Russell Branyan are the only players to hit a home run to that location since the current stadium opened in 2009.

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"I was trying to make contact," Judge said. "If my barrel can beat the ball to a spot, I think good things are going to happen. That's all I was trying to do there."

The long home run occurred when Judge drove a 1-1 pitch from Erasmo Ramirez well over the center-field wall -- an estimated 437 feet. His seventh career home run in 110 career at-bats wound up onto the netting above Monument Park.

"Watching his BP (batting practice), I've seen balls go farther than any other balls I've ever seen," Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. "Obviously he's just a massive human being but he's got that kind of power and he's figuring out how to use it. It's fun. It's exciting to see come a guy come into his own and start to figure out things in the major leagues."

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Judge raised his average to .308 after his first three-RBI game. He also has three straight multi-hit performances and has a .379 on-base percentage after a 2-for-15 start in the first four games.

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"I think that's because of the size of him, that's always going to be like that," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "I think people are curious how far they can see Aaron Judge can hit a ball."

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Also fun for the Yankees were Judge's previous two plate appearances.

In the fifth he walked and scored New York's second run on a wild pitch by Jumbo Diaz (0-1). In the sixth, Judge singled up the middle against Diaz as Starlin Castro scored the tying run.

Others also contributed to New York's third straight win.

Aaron Hicks drove in two runs without a hit and Jacoby Ellsbury added an RBI single. Headley had two more hits and scored the tiebreaking run when Brett Gardner reached on a throwing error by Xavier Cedeno.

Rickie Weeks Jr. hit a two-run home run off Yankees' starter Jordan Montgomery. He also reached on fielding error by Castro at second base which allowed Steven Souza Jr. to score.

Weeks exited the game with neck and right shoulder soreness during a violent collision at first base with Gardner. Gardner also left the game and the Yankees said he bruised his jaw and strained his neck.

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Both players are day-to-day and not expected to land on the disabled list.

The Rays dropped their second straight after winning five of their first seven games. They also sustained their eight straight series loss in New York, which was marred by four unearned runs.

"Just sloppy overall," Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria said. "We've got to figure out a way to clean that up."

"We just didn't do us a couple of things we should have done," Weeks said. "It kind of cost us the game."

After Montgomery allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits in 4 2/3 innings in his major league debut, Bryan Mitchell (1-0) recorded the next four outs for the win.

Aroldis Chapman entered with two on and one out in the ninth and quickly recorded his first save.

Tampa Bay's Blake Snell allowed two unearned runs and two hits in 4 2/3 innings before Diaz and Cedeno gave up the lead.

NOTES: New York 1B Greg Bird was kept out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight day to give his sore ankle another day to heal, though he said he's feeling better. ... Tampa Bay OF Colby Rasmus (hip surgery) did on field work at Tropicana Field Wednesday but manager Kevin Cash said he is unsure of when Rasmus will resume a rehab assignment. ... Wednesday was the fourth time a Yankee made his major league debut against the Rays. The others were RHP Ian Kennedy in 2007, LHP Sean Henn in 2005 and RHP Orlando Hernandez in 1998. ... To make room for LHP Jordan Montgomery on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated RHP Johnny Barbato for assignment.

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