A scorching heat wave may have left The Bronx, but Aaron Judge remains nuclear hot.
Judge’s third homer in as many games, to go with Jordan Montgomery’s solid first start, a home run by Gio Urshela and a dominating relief outing from Chad Green propelled the Yankees to a 5-1 victory at an empty Yankee Stadium in the home opener over the Red Sox on Friday night, a game that lacked the usual buzz of games between the blood rivals.
Brett Gardner halted a 0-for-12 slump to start the season with a two-run homer in the eighth. He also drew two walks. Of the 31 runs scored by the Yankees this year, 21 have been via home runs.
A masked Hal Steinbrenner watched his sizzling club from the owner’s box. His late brother Hank was honored with a pregame video tribute. Steinbrenner’s Yankees have won four straight and are 5-1.
Judge’s third homer of the season erased a 1-0 Red Sox lead in the third inning. Urshela made it 3-1 with an opposite-field homer to right in the fourth.
Montgomery worked 5 ²/₃ innings, allowed a run, five hits, walked one and fanned four. In his last 14 games (13 starts), the 27-year-old Montgomery is 5-0 with a 3.18 ERA since Sept. 4, 2017.
CC Sabathia, whose locker was close to Montgomery’s when he pitched and threw out the first pitch Friday night, predicts Montgomery is headed for a strong season thanks to a cut fastball.
“His cutter, obviously. His velocity’s been great. Me and Monty have a great relationship. I love that guy. … I think he’s going to be great this year,’’ a slimmed-down Sabathia said. “I think he’s going to be great going forward. I think the more he gets out there, the more confident he’s going to be. He works extremely hard and he listens. He’s coachable. The sky’s the limit for him.”
Green took over for Montgomery with two outs in the sixth and a runner on first and retired six batters, striking out four of them. Working for a second straight game Adam Ottavino replaced Green with the bases empty and two outs in the seventh and retired J.D. Martinez on a harmless fly ball to center.
When Montgomery went to the mound to start the sixth inning Jonathan Holder was throwing in the bullpen and was shortly joined by Green. In his first outing of the season Montgomery was at 66 pitches and when he walked Martinez to start the frame it was possible Montgomery was close to being hooked.
He then fed Rafael Devers a 4-6-3 double play, but when Xander Bogaerts bounced a ground-ball single to center Aaron Boone called Green from the pen and he kept the two-run advantage in play by getting Christian Vazquez on a grounder to short.
Urshela had upped the Yankees’ lead to 3-1 in the fourth with an opposite-field homer to right off right-hander Ryan Weber. Phillips Valdez replaced Weber to face DJ LeMahieu with a runner on first and one out. He got LeMahieu to force Gardner at second and struck out Judge.
Montgomery faced an immediate Red Sox scoring threat in the fourth when he plunked Devers starting the inning and gave up a single to Bogaerts. Montgomery failing to field Alex Verdugo’s slowly hit grounder loaded the bases for Michael Chavis with one out.
Chavis, who homered to open the third, hit a grounder to Urshela that started an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play and preserved the Yankees’ 2-1 lead.
That advantage was provided by Judge’s third homer in as many games. LeMahieu opened the frame with a single up the middle off Weber and Judge sent the next pitch over the right-field wall for his third homer of the season.
Montgomery retired the first six Red Sox but was greeted by Chavis’ homer leading off the third inning to give the visitors’ a 1-0 lead. Montgomery then put himself in position to give up additional runs by giving up an infield single to Jose Peraza, the No. 9 hitter, and a single to center by Kevin Pillar.
Judge bailed Montgomery out by catching Martinez’ routine fly to right and throwing to first where Pillar had wandered too far off the base. He couldn’t beat Judge’s accurate throw to Luke Voit that completed an inning-ending double play.
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