If Shohei Ohtani won Round 1 of the Ohtani vs. Judge showdown, then it’s pretty safe to say Judge won Round 2. With a long ball and a pair of defensive highlights, Judge kept the Yankees in a tight ballgame that they eventually won via extra-innings walk-off, 3-2.
In the top of the first, it seemed like Jhony Brito might be in for another short outing and a long night. His second batter, Ohtani, cracked one deep to center, 111.5 mph off the bat. With a projected distance of 411 feet, it would’ve been a homer in 22 of 30 MLB ballparks. It probably would’ve been a homer in Yankee Stadium too, if not for the Yankees’ 6-foot-7 center fielder. He leapt, the ball hit off the heel of his glove, and he caught it in his bare right hand to complete the robbery, his second on Ohtani in as many years.
In the bottom half of the inning, Anthony Volpe led off with a 104.6-mph scorcher — the hardest-hit ball of his young major league career by 1.5 mph — up the middle for a single. The shortstop also added a walk and then took second on a heads-up play in the third in addition to a single in the eighth and a pair of web gems on hard ground balls, including this one on an Anthony Rendon grounder with an expected batting average of .580 in the fourth:
But in the first, the second batter—and the hero—was Judge. You can probably guess what happened: Judge hit the ball just a little harder (0.2 mph; at 111.7, it was his hardest-hit ball of the year), just a little bit more on a line (-2 degrees), and just a bit further (one foot) than Ohtani did.
It ended up over the fence in left-center for a homer to make it 2-0, Yanks.
As for Brito, it’s easy to see how that first inning could have been disastrous. After an almost-homer off the bat of Ohtani, Mike Trout singled and Rendon walked. But then, Brito got Hunter Renfroe to fly out, and thanks to Judge’s robbery, that was the final out of the inning.
The next 11 Angels managed just a walk and a double against three K’s, but Brito ran into some more trouble in the fifth. After walking Matt Thaiss, No. 9 hitter Zach Neto doubled for the second time. As anticipated, Brito was then lifted before the top of the Angels’ lineup came up for the third time. Thanks to Michael King, only Thaiss scored, and Brito’s final line of 4.1 innings with one earned run was serviceable. The command wavered at times, as Brito walked three, but he wiggled out of jams with the help of three K’s and his groundball prowess.
But the game was still within reach for the Angels largely because Griffin Canning had settled down. After Judge’s homer, Canning faced just one over the minimum over his next 5.1 innings. Yet as expected, he didn’t last much longer into the Yankees’ lineup their third time through. After Canning set leadoff man Volpe down on strikes, Judge walked and Anthony Rizzo singled. Jaime Barria then came in to quell the threat, getting Gleyber Torres to pop out and DJ LeMahieu — who complained about Barria’s attempt to quick-pitch him last night — to ground into a fielder’s choice.
In both the sixth and the seventh, King allowed two runners to reach base, but he got out of it in the former with a double play and the latter thanks to Wandy Peralta coming in to neutralize Ohtani on a nasty changeup inside:
Peralta started off the top of the eighth by striking out Trout with his new slider and then getting Rendon to fly out weakly. With two outs and two strikes on Renfroe, the Angels’ right fielder managed to rifle a good changeup into left field. He then advanced on a balk and scored on a Gio Urshela bloop single.
Judge came in clutch again on the next batter though, diving to snag a Brandon Drury liner with an expected batting average of .500 to keep the game tied at 2-2:
In the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth, the Yankees and the Angels threatened against their opponent’s closer, but neither threat came to pass. Ultimately, the game went to extras, and in the top of the 10th, Ian Hamilton and the slambio were able to keep the zombie runner from scoring thanks in part to a tremendous play from drawn-in third baseman LeMahieu.
In the bottom half, the bunt failed the Yankees for the second inning in a row as an attempted sacrifice from Volpe turned into an infield popout. With first base open, the Angels elected to walk Judge, and then Rizzo was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A slumping Gleyber Torres then strode to the plate, lifting a walk-off sac fly for an anticlimactic end to a very entertaining game.
The Yankees still have a chance to continue their run to start 2023 of five consecutive series completed without a loss. Tomorrow, two top-of-the-rotation lefties in Nestor Cortes and Patrick Sandoval will face off in the rubber match at 4:05 pm EDT.