SEATTLE (AP) — A day after hitting a milestone homer, Aaron Judge followed up the 101st of his career. He wasn’t alone in another home run barrage by the Bronx Bombers.
Gary Sanchez, DJ LeMahieu and Mike Ford all followed Judge’s lead with long balls, and the New York Yankees finished off a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners with a 7-3 win on Wednesday.
After opening their West Coast swing by being swept in Oakland, the Yankees rebounded to win five of six and continued to bash home runs. New York is 11½ games ahead of second-place Tampa Bay in the AL East, its largest division lead since September 2006.
“They’re very resilient and they’re very hungry and that’s why I talk about sometimes you’re going to have a series where they get you, but from a mindset standpoint I’ve never had reason to be considered with these guys and what they are going to bring for the next day, for the next series,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “That’s why I was confident going to L.A., why I was confident coming up here.”
Sanchez hit a towering two-run homer in the first off Seattle starter Justus Sheffield, a ball that barely stayed fair and nearly bounced out of the stadium. Ford snapped a 2-2 tie with his sixth home run in the past 14 games, and Judge, who was the third-fastest player to reach 100 homers, broke the game open with a two-run shot off reliever Matt Wisler as part of New York’s four-run fifth inning.
LeMahieu added his 23rd of the season in the ninth. The Yankees have hit 70 home runs in August and raised their season total to 250, already eighth-most in major league history.
“That’s what we’ve been doing this whole road trip, trying to get ahead of guys and let our pitchers do their thing,” Judge said.
James Paxton (11-6) had a shaky outing facing his former team for the first time. The big left-hander allowed only one hit on Kyle Seager’s two-run homer in the fourth inning that just eluded the reach of Judge at the fence in right field. Despite giving up just the one hit, Paxton was done after only five innings due to control problems. Paxton issued a season-high five walks, four in the fourth inning alone. He’d allowed six walks over 24 1/3 innings in his previous four starts combined.
Paxton threw 86 pitches, 45 for strikes. Paxton spent his first six seasons with the Mariners, including throwing a no-hitter last year, before being traded to New York in the offseason.
“I was trying to be aggressive. I was just having a hard time finding the zone a little bit,” Paxton said. “I was just trying to get into the zone, but then I was able to correct it in the fifth inning and get those outs when we needed them.”
Seattle had just one hit until Tom Murphy doubled in the ninth.
“Definitely strange being on the other side,” Seager said. “I obviously played with him for quite a few years, known him for quite a few years. I’m definitely happy for him and the success he’s having over there, but he definitely got the better of us.”
Sheffield (0-1) was just as much in the spotlight as the centerpiece of what Seattle got in return in the Paxton trade. Sheffield showed flashes in his second career start, like striking out Judge looking in the first inning on a sharp slider at the knees. But he missed his spots on the pitches to Sanchez and Ford and paid for it, giving up the long ball.
Sheffield allowed six hits and struck out five.
“Certainly not an easy lineup to try to get through. I thought his stuff was really good,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He gave up the home run early to Sanchez, but he settled in and I thought he threw the ball really well. It’s something to build off of there.”
The Yankees pulled 3B Gio Urshela in the fifth inning after he felt tightness in his groin. He was replaced by Didi Gregorius, who was going to get one more day off after suffering a bruised shoulder last Sunday, but was needed. Urshela said he felt the muscle tighten early in the game and didn’t want it to get worse. It was unknown if Urshela would need an MRI.
Gregorius walked and grounded out in his two at-bats.
Yankees: Boone said reliever Dellin Betances (right lat strain) will pitch one more simulated game Saturday and will go out on a minor league rehab assignment if all goes well.
Mariners: Servais is considering leaving OF Mitch Haniger home as Seattle heads out on a 10-game road trip. Haniger is recovering from a lower back injury he suffered while rehabbing from a ruptured testicle. The team is hopeful Haniger can play again before the end of the season.
Yankees: After an off day, LHP CC Sabathia (5-8, 4.99) takes the mound when the Yankees play at home against Oakland on Friday. He is 0-4 in six starts since picking up his last win on June 24.
Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez (1-4, 6.09 ERA) makes his second start since returning from the injured list on Thursday at Texas. Hernandez pitched into the sixth inning in his first start off the injured list last weekend.
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