TORONTO — While the Yankees’ early-inning pitching plans created conversation prior to Monday’s game, it was Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah who struggled in the opening frame.
Aaron Judge, who hit his record-tying 61st home run at Rogers Centre last September, laced a solo shot off the righty in his return to the ballpark. The home run foreshadowed an erratic night for Manoah, who didn’t escape the first before also surrendering a two-run homer to Willie Calhoun.
The Yankees tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning when Anthony Volpe doubled and later scored on a single from Kyle Higashioka. Judge then walked with the bases loaded to make it 5-0, a nice cushion in what became a 7-4 Yankees win.
“Everyone’s chipping in,” Aaron Boone said afterward, adding that he’s like the Yankees’ approach at the plate lately.
The damage could’ve been worse for Manoah, as he walked seven batters, thus continuing the 2022 Cy Young finalist’s issues with command. He completed just four innings while also surrendering six hits and five earned over 92 pitches. Manoah struck out three.
“Up and down our lineup, I feel like we put pressure on him every single inning,” Calhoun said, noting that the Yankees were aware Manoah was missing the zone a bunch.
The Bombers added another run in the sixth inning when Anthony Rizzo doubled. A seventh followed in the eighth when Judge hit his second homer of the game — a 462-foot bomb that proceeded an enraged Boone getting ejected for arguing a low strike call against the slugger.
Boone felt that he was tossed over nothing compared to criticisms the Blue Jays had hurled at home plate umpire Clint Vondrak earlier in the game.
“I’ve got some experience getting thrown out,” the skipper said, “and tonight didn’t feel like it got to that level, and it did pretty quick. So I was letting them know that I just didn’t think that was right.”
Judge’s ensuing bomb, meanwhile, also created a viral clip, as Blue Jays broadcasters Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez noticed the MVP’s eyes looking toward the Yankees’ dugout prior to the blast.
“You don’t wanna go throwing allegations around without knowing, but,” Shulman said, not finishing his sentence.
“He’s looking at something,” Martinez added.
Viewers and social media users wondered if Judge and the Yankees were tipping pitches — or something more nefarious — but Boone and the outfielder attributed Judge’s wandering eyes to continued “chirping” from the Yankees’ dugout following the manager’s ejection.
“I’m kind of looking like, ‘Who’s still talking?’ It’s 6-0,” Judge said when asked about his eyes. “Our manager got tossed. He did his job. Like, let’s go back to playing ball.”
Judge also said that he talked to some teammates about the continued chatter after the game, but Blue Jays manager John Schneider was suspicious.
“It’s kind of odd that a hitter would be looking in that direction,” Schneider said, adding that the Blue Jays will make sure they’re not giving anything away moving forward, per MLB.com’s Keegan Matheson. “He’s obviously looking in that direction for a reason.”
As for the Yankees’ pitching, they went the unconventional route on the mound, as reliever Jimmy Cordero played the part of opener. Jhony Brito had been in line to start, but the rookie carried a .292/.347/.631 slash line against right-handed hitters into Monday’s game. With the Jays’ boasting righties George Springer, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the top of their lineup, Boone tabbed Cordero, who began the day with a .171/.256/.257 slash line against righties.
The move worked out well, as Cordero threw two scoreless innings, thanks in part to some defensive help from Volpe and Jake Bauers.
Brito, meanwhile, entered in the third and kept the Blue Jays off the board until the eighth inning, when a Gleyber Torres error on a potential double play ball helped the Jays score four total runs. Brito only earned two of those, while Ian Hamilton and Michael King finished off the rocky inning.
“For Jimmy to set us up and go through those first six hitters, tough hitters… was huge,” Boone said. “And that put us in a good spot for Jhony, and he came in and threw the ball really well. Was efficient. He did a great job using all three pitches. He incorporated his breaking ball enough to have a presence with it. But just a really good job by those two guys.”
The Yankees will look to gain more ground in the American League East on Tuesday, when Domingo German opposes Kevin Gausman.
The right-handed German owns a 4.00 ERA this season and only allowed four earned runs over his last three starts. Toronto scored four runs, including two homers off him, on April 21 at Yankee Stadium. Gausman, meanwhile, dominated the Yankees that day, striking out 11 and walking none over seven scoreless innings.
The righty has a 3.38 ERA through eight starts.
Gerrit Cole will pitch for the Yankees on Wednesday, while Chris Bassitt will throw for the Blue Jays. Nestor Cortes faces Jose Berrios on Thursday.