The New York Yankees began this weekend with 12 injured players and now their crowded injury list will likely reach 13 with another big name.
New York began the season with ace Luis Severino and outfielder Aaron Hicks sidelined after signing contract extensions during spring training. Three games in the Yankees lost Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar and have played their entire homestand without Gary Sanchez, who may return Wednesday in Anaheim.
Now they will be without Judge, who suffered a left oblique injury on a swing during the sixth inning of Saturday's 9-2 win. Judge hit one of four homers, but when he singled, the slugger immediately winced and labored towards first base before exiting.
While Judge was getting an MRI, the Yankees reached the .500 mark at 10-10. They do not know how long Judge will be out for, but manager Aaron Boone said "probably not" when asked if his right fielder could avoid going on the injured list.
"It's Aaron Judge," Boone said. "He's one of the great players in the game. Such a key figure to our club, not only between the lines obviously but what he means to us in the room "
Last season Judge fractured his right wrist on July 26 when he was hit by a pitch from Kansas City right-hander Jakob Junis and did not return until Sept. 14. The Yankees went 25-20 in his absence but their injury list was nearly as extensive.
This time, the Yankees will rely on their "next man mentality," which includes Clint Frazier, who had three hits Saturday and is hitting .351, Gleyber Torres, who is hitting .260 and Luke Voit, who has reached base in 31 straight games.
"I've been here, seen too much," said outfielder Brett Gardner, who was on the 2013 team that saw the Yankees play without Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Curtis Granderson for significant periods. "At this point you just have to roll with the punches and play the cards that you're dealt."
The Yankees will try to get over .500 for the first time in two weeks before heading on a nine-game West Coast trip and hope to get a third straight solid start when James Paxton takes the mound.
On Tuesday, Paxton aced his first test against the Boston Red Sox by displaying dominant fastball command when he struck out 12 and pitched eight innings of two-hit ball.
Paxton produced his second-highest strikeout total while utilizing the fastball and barely using his curveball, the same pitch he said last Sunday that he was tipping in an ugly outing in Houston on April 10.
Paxton has never had consecutive double-digit strikeout games and Tuesday was his 12th double-digit strikeout game. He struck out four of the first six hitters and six straight towards the end of the outing.
The left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six career starts against the Royals and has three double-digit strikeout games in those outings. He last faced the Royals on July 1 in Seattle when he fanned 11 in eight innings in a 1-0 victory.
The Royals are 2-4 on a 10-game trip and will try to salvage the split after allowing seven homers in the last two nights and going 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
"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.
Jorge Lopez starts for the Royals and like Paxton is coming off a double-digit strikeout performance. Lopez fanned on 10 Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox but also allowed four runs and eight hits in a 5-1 loss and dropped to 0-2.
Lopez is 2-6 with a 5.53 ERA in 11 starts for the Royals since being obtained from Milwaukee for Mike Moustakas. He is facing the Yankees for the first time.
--Field Level Media