Aaron Judge strikes again, conquering Camden Yards’ left field wall to lead Yankees to 6-0 win over Orioles – The Denver PostJuly 24, 2022
With a base open and two outs, perhaps avoiding the situation entirely would’ve been the best result. New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge had done his share of damage to that point this series.
Entering Sunday, Judge had eight homers in his previous 11 games against Baltimore, including two during Friday’s series opener. But Orioles manager Brandon Hyde allowed right-hander Dean Kremer to go after Judge in the third inning, and while Kremer had fooled Judge earlier with a curveball, his latest breaking ball didn’t get past the league’s home run leader.
Chants of “MVP” from Yankees fans at Camden Yards serenaded Judge as he made his way around the bases for the ninth time this season against the Orioles, and third time this series. The ball off his bat — a no-doubt two-run shot over the same wall he complained about in May — traveled an estimated 456 feet and put the Yankees on their way to a series-ending 6-0 victory.
“I don’t think anyone should keep pitching him,” catcher Robinson Chirinos said of Judge. “I mean, the guy is unbelievable.”
Back in May, when Judge cranked two homers here but missed out on a third because of the new wall, which was moved back nearly 30 feet and raised more than five feet, the 30-year-old called the changes to Camden Yards “a travesty.”
“It looks like a create-a-park now,” he added at the time.
But as he did for much of the weekend, Judge rendered those changes moot by blasting the ball even out of that monstrosity’s reach. His two homers Friday found the visitor’s bullpen, long shots that likely would’ve cleared the left field wall but didn’t face that challenge.
All four of Judge’s homers at Camden Yards this year found the left-center bullpen areas before Sunday’s latest example. Judge has hit 35 homers against Baltimore (47-48) in his career, the most of any team he’s faced.
Through two innings, Kremer hadn’t allowed a baserunner. But DJ LeMahieu’s two-out double plated Jose Trevino and brought Judge to the plate, which spurred the preemptive “MVP” chants. Kremer struck out Judge in the first on four pitches, keeping the ball low in the zone before his low curveball induced a swing and miss. Kremer hung his curveball the second time he showed it to Judge, however, leading to the biggest knock against the right-hander.
Chirinos said the goal was to have that curveball down and away to Judge. Instead, Kremer, who wasn’t available postgame, left it middle-in, and Judge crushed it. And while there was a base open for a potential intentional walk, Hyde said that’s not a course of action he’d like to use in the third inning.
“We’ve just got to execute better pitches,” Hyde said. “You’ve got to live on the edge, or off, or down, and if you walk him, you walk him. But a young pitcher made a mistake in a bad spot there.”
Kremer still completed 5 1/3 innings, striking out six batters yet allowing four runs on five hits. Left-hander Keegan Akin, who replaced Kremer, gave up one run on five hits. Right-hander Rico Garcia also allowed one run to cross in the eighth.
And while the offense has frequently lifted Baltimore out of not-so-deep holes of late, it didn’t happen Sunday, against left-hander Nestor Cortes, who has shut out the Orioles in both appearances against them this year. Baltimore managed to push just two runners into scoring position.
“He doesn’t make many middle misses,” Hyde said. “We had one opportunity to score there early, and besides that, we didn’t have many baserunners on him.”
It left Baltimore with a series loss ahead of a four-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays — the kind of games that hold special significance as the Orioles slipped below .500 again and face the trade deadline in just over a week.
“Our pitchers are doing a really good job. Like, even today, they keep us close on the scoreboard,” Chirinos said. “We just have to get our bats together and hopefully compete this second half for the wild card.”
A do-it-all ability, with hopes for consistency
If shortstop Jorge Mateo could prolong the success of his past six games into a larger sample size, the possibilities are nearly endless. For one, there’s his defense and baserunning, both of which are among the best in the league. But to have a consistent bat along with those two?
“It’s a special skill set,” Hyde said, “there’s no doubt about it.”
Mateo has now recorded a hit in six straight games, raising his batting average from below .200 to .210 with eight hits in 24 at-bats. In that time, he’s notched two doubles and a triple, stolen a base and gone first-to-third on an errant pickoff attempt Saturday, the latter of which set up the go-ahead run against the Yankees.
Mateo said he’s staying back on the ball better, and it has shown. The outside breaking balls that might’ve given him trouble earlier in the year haven’t resulted in as many whiffs, leading to a reduction in his strikeout rate. While Mateo said he focuses on keeping the ball down — his speed is his biggest tool — he’s displayed some power and the ability to drive the ball in the air.
And Mateo can put himself into scoring position. His 23 steals are the second-most in the league.
“A single, that turns into a double every time he’s on first,” right-hander Jordan Lyles said, “because he’s going to steal second.”
There’s always a balance of understanding a small sample size to avoid getting carried away about the future. But maybe Mateo can prolong this run into something more.
Around the horn
>> The Orioles announced right-hander Tyler Wells will pitch Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays with right-hander Jordan Lyles pitching Thursday, keeping the rotation on schedule. That plan likely rules out a promotion this week for left-hander DL Hall, the organization’s third-best prospect per Baseball America.
>> Hyde said outfielder Anthony Santander had a routine off day Sunday, with Rutschman slotting in at designated hitter and Trey Mancini taking over in right field.
Monday, 7:05 p.m.
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