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Is the swagger back? How Aaron Judge, Yankees showed their resolve in winning at Toronto

TORONTO – Over four stimulating nights at Rogers Centre, the Yankees gained back a measure of swagger, with Aaron Judge leading the ensemble against the Blue Jays.

They watched Judge blast four homers and miss a fifth by inches in three of four games of a kitchen-sink series that featured more than hardball.

By the end, the bullpen was operating on fumes, in part due to Domingo German’s ejection – and later suspension – for sticky stuff, requiring key contributions from unexpected parts of the staff.

“We called that Nestor and The Funky Bunch tonight,’’ manager Aaron Boone said following Thursday night’s 4-2 win in which two of his not-ready-for-prime time relievers delivered six key outs, and Ron Marinaccio saved it for Cortes.

May 18, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge (99) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre.
May 18, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge (99) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre.

That the Yankees only dropped the game pitched by ace Gerrit Cole, a 3-0 loss in 10 innings, said a bit more about the club’s resolve lately, in an unforgiving stretch against AL East foes.

“It’s all around, guys stepping up,’’ said the Yankees captain.

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Aaron Judge on 'blocking out the noise' at Rogers Centre

These young and talented teams, like the Blue Jays, aren’t intimidated by the Yanks’ presence.

That comment Boone made a couple Octobers ago about the league “catching up to us’’ has come to pass, and the Jays felt at home under the Rogers Centre roof, increasing their dugout chatter.

“We were focused on what we can control,’’ said Judge, deflecting the back-and-forth with Toronto, which included tipped pitches and suspicions of coaches deciphering and delivering that info.

“We did a pretty good job blocking out all the noise, the distraction (during) the whole series.’’

Judge mostly did a great job, going 6-for-14 with four homers, a double, seven RBI and a second salute to – well it sure seemed directed at the raucous fans in right field, not the Yanks’ bullpen – as Judge went into a first-inning trot on his two-run homer off Jose Berrios.

“I was upset, but nothing I can do about that,’’ Judge said of what he felt were some unwarranted accusations. “I’ve still got to go out there and play.’’

Boone doubted that it created any more resolve to Judge’s play, “but I’m glad he had that kind of series, adding that, “ I always feel there’s…a higher place he can always get to.

“He’s doing pretty well, though.’’

Yes, too bad these teams don’t meet again until late September their final two head-to-head series, after another round of dugout mania.

“He was yelling at Louie again,’’ Boone said of shouting back at Jays pitching coach Pete Walker, apparently signaling he was crazy for digging at Yanks’ third base coach Luis Rojas for his positioning outside the box.

“I’m glad we’re leaving,’’ said Boone, nearly under his breath.

The manager added that he was “trying to stay out’’ of the business of jawing with Toronto’s coaches, and “I violated my own rules to our guys, so I apologize for that.

“I didn’t like him yelling at Louie, though. Again.’’

Nestor Cortes finds missing fastball at Toronto

After going 0-2 with an ERA of 8.53 in his four previous starts, failing to pitch past the fifth inning, Cortes found something.

The lefty said he was in better rhythm and balance, and he had the fastball at the top of the zone working, making his cutter and slider that much more effective.

But the bullpen still needed to register nine outs after Cortes – admittedly gassed - was lifted with a man on first in the seventh.

Boone did not have Michael King, Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta or Jimmy Cordero available, so it fell to Weber and Abreu to pitch to Toronto’s most frightening hitters in the seventh and eighth.

Weber wobbled a bit, allowed pinch-hitter Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (sore knee) to cut the lead to 3-2 on a sac fly, but held serve.

Abreu, who has allowed 35 baserunners in 20 innings, struck out Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman in a perfect eighth and Marinaccio notched a perfect ninth.

“Heart beats a little quicker,’’ Marinaccio said after his first save of the year, provided an extra cushion by Anthony Volpe’s ninth-inning homer, his seventh of the year.

“Seems like we’ve been able to get a little gritty and figure out a way.’’

“Takes everyone, right?’’ said Boone, and that included a late RBI single by the embattled Aaron Hicks, who went 3-for-4. “And this series was certainly the case.’’

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Aaron Judge home run leads Yankees to win over Blue Jays