NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Judge took a swing, winced and then labored to make it all the way to first base.
Quickly, the crowd at Yankee Stadium went silent, realizing this was a most costly hit.
Judge hurt his left oblique and was expected to go on the injured list as the already banged-up New York Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals 9-2 Saturday.
The All-Star slugger homered early but injured himself in the sixth inning while hitting a single. He was taken for an MRI and further tests.
Manager Aaron Boone said he didn’t know the severity of the setback. But when asked if Judge could possibly avoid going on the injured list, Boone said, “Probably not.”
The team later said it expected to promote infielder Thairo Estrada from Triple-A to take Judge’s spot on the roster Sunday.
The Yankees began the game with 12 players on the injured list, including Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks. Of those missing, only Sanchez appears close to returning.
“You never want to see that and you know he doesn’t come out of games like that,” Stanton said. “We’ll just wait and see what we got.”
Judge hurt himself on the swing and gingerly made his way down the line. Trainer Steve Donahue immediately came from the dugout to check on Judge, who then left.
Judge has five home runs and is batting .288 with 11 RBIs. The right fielder has played in every game this season.
“It’s Aaron Judge. He’s one of the great players in the game,” Boone said. “Such a key figure to our club, not only between the lines, obviously, but what he means to us in the room. He’ll be part of continuing to lead forward. This is not a time where we’re going to feel sorry for ourselves.”
It was the second straight season Judge was hurt playing against Kansas City. Last July, he sustained a broken right wrist when he was hit by a pitch from Jakob Junis and missed nearly two months.
It also was the second time Judge injured his oblique on a swing. In a 2016 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in mid-September, he suffered a Grade 2 right oblique strain and missed the rest of that season.
The Yankees hit four home runs in this win as they reached .500 for the first time since they were 5-5.
Judge connected in the first, Clint Frazier had a solo drive in the second and Mike Tauchman and DJ LeMahieu homered on consecutive pitches in the fourth.
Boone was ejected for the first time this season in the third after an apparent three-run homer by Gleyber Torres was overturned by fan interference and ruled an out.
Torres hit a flyball to left and a fan in the first row reached over and tried to make a barehanded catch as Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon attempted to make a leaping catch.
The Royals challenged the call and following a lengthy review to overturn it, Boone raced out of the dugout and was ejected by second base umpire Jerry Meals following a demonstrative display. After being tossed for the fifth time as a manager, Boone briefly argued with first base umpire Ron Kulpa before heading off the field.
Judge and Frazier hit their fifth homers of the season in the opening two innings off Heath Fillmyer (0-1) as the Yankees took a 2-0 lead.
Tauchman made it 5-0 with a three-run homer that easily cleared the right-center field fence. After Tauchman homered for the second straight game, LeMahieu hit his first of the season.
Masahiro Tanaka (2-1) pitched seven innings of one-run ball. He took a shutout into the sixth before allowing a homer to Whit Merrifield to start the inning.
Chris Owings homered in the ninth for Kansas City.
Fillmyer allowed six runs in four innings.
“If a pitch is up — you make a little bit of a mistake — it doesn’t take too much to get burned on it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
GONZALEZ OPTS OUT
LHP Gio Gonzalez opted out of his minor league contract with the Yankees, who have 48 hours to release him or add him to the major league roster. Gonzalez signed the deal with the Yankees in March that contained $3 million in base salary if he got added to the 40-man roster and a chance to get $9 million in performance bonuses by getting $300,000 per start.
Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 6.00 ERA in three starts covering 15 innings at Triple-A. He has 19 strikeouts and six walks. He was supposed to pitch Friday but the game was rained out.
LeMahieu hit his first homer since signing with the Yankees and received the ball from the fan who caught it. After the game, he met 11-year-old David Vallante and his father, who traveled from Rhode Island, exchanged two signed baseballs along with a bat and posed for pictures.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (shoulder impingement syndrome) is scheduled to make a rehab start Saturday night for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Before the game, GM Dayton Moore told reporters Duffy could return soon if his rehab start goes well. Duffy has been on the 10-day injured list all season and did not pitch in spring training.
Yankees: Sanchez (left calf strain) will play in a minor league rehab game Monday. The Yankees have not determined where the game will take place. If Sanchez gets through the rehab game without any issues, Boone said the catcher will fly to Anaheim on Tuesday and be activated Wednesday. . 3B Miguel Andujar (labrum tear in right shoulder) will head to the minor league facility in Tampa, Florida, on Monday.
LHP James Paxton starts Sunday afternoon for the Yankees. Paxton struck out 12 in eight innings Tuesday against Boston. RHP Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA) starts for Kansas City. Lopez struck out a career-high 10 hitters but allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox.
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