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Yankees 5, Orioles 4: Aaron Judge carries Yanks to tight win in Baltimore

The Yankees’ best player put the team on his back tonight, and it was just enough to secure a third straight victory.

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There’s been a lot to like about this 2022 Yankees season. The team trots out a starter that gives them a chance to win each night, and every reliever on the staff dominates in their own unique and interesting way. The lineup can be breathtaking to watch when it’s on, with its collection of power hitters on both sides of the plate.

But there is nothing quite like a game where Aaron Judge, the face of the franchise and one of the very best players on the planet, decides to take over. Thanks in large part to Judge’s monster contributions, the Yankees edged out the Orioles for their third straight win on what was a special night from the Yankee superstar.

Judge quickly got things started in the first, following a DJ LeMahieu hit-by-pitch by scorching a cement mixer from Spenser Watkins off the top of the left-field wall. Judge’s blast would have been a no-doubter at any other point in Camden Yards’ history (and in 29 of 30 current ballparks), but this year, it was an RBI double, and Judge was erased trying to stretch for third.

Jameson Taillon gave back the lead in the second. The right-hander left a cutter up over the plate, and Ramon Urías did a good job taking it the other way. The ball carried out over the right-center wall for a solo shot and a 1-1 game.

Not to be outdone, Judge came back in the next half-inning and crushed a majestic solo homer of his own to almost the exact spot as Urías’. For good measure, Judge hit his a few mph harder and a few feet farther:

Again, Taillon couldn’t hold the lead, partially thanks to some poor fortune in the fourth. Trey Mancini led off with a single, and Rougned Odor followed with a soft bloop double down the line in left. Next batter, Gleyber Torres had trouble corralling a groundball that nearly hit the second-base bag, and the Orioles had a run home without the benefit of a hard-hit ball. Taillon did fairly well to stanch the bleeding, inducing a sac fly from Tyler Nevin that gave Baltimore a 3-2 lead, before escaping without further damage.

Taillon finished with another short, respectable start, but one that wasn’t quite as strong as his others this season. He managed five-plus innings and three runs allowed, with just two strikeouts against one walk. His command didn’t seem sharp at times, though he did a fine job keeping the O’s to just three runs despite some tough batted-ball luck.

One thing that doesn’t require any BABIP randomness, however, is a moonshot. Judge decided to truly take things into his own hands in the fifth and sent a shot into orbit:

Judge’s blasts didn’t come with traffic on the bases, so his second dinger of the night was only good for a 3-3 tie. The Yankees did threaten a big inning in the top of the sixth, loading the bases with one out, but LeMahieu could only come up with an RBI groundout, and Judge finally faltered in grounding out to end the inning.

A narrow lead in Baltimore, however, should usually be enough for the loaded Yankees bullpen. The unit was carried by Michael King tonight, with the right-hander coming on in the sixth and erasing a leadoff double, surrendered by Taillon, by striking out three straight batters. King would go on to total three perfect frames with six strikeouts. He remains an incredible trump card for Aaron Boone to play in just about any important situation.

The Yankees did give themselves a little more breathing room in the seventh, when Josh Donaldson lined a double to left. Torres brought him home with a hotshot to short that was ruled an error by Urías.

That breathing room came in oh-so handy. Aroldis Chapman relieved King in the ninth in possession of a 5-3 advantage, and did his absolute best to make things interesting. After retiring the first two batters without incident, Chapman yielded a pair of singles to put the tying run on. Ryan McKenna then lined one to left, and Joey Gallo somewhat inexplicably let the ball drop in front of him. A game that the Yankees appeared to have in hand suddenly stood poised on a razor’s edge, as Cedric Mullins strode to the plate with the winning run in scoring position.

Crisis was averted though, with Mullins harmlessly popping up a fly that LeMahieu gratefully claimed in foul territory. In the end, Chapman squeaked out his ninth save on the year, and the Yankees moved forward with their third straight victory.

This wasn’t a clean win in Baltimore, but ultimately, the Yankees still have a winning streak to boast. They have their best player to thank for that. Tune in tomorrow night, to see if they can keep the good times rolling, and if Judge can find even more ways to amaze.

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