MINNEAPOLIS – Aaron Judge's 31st birthday could have unfolded badly, with the New York Yankees in a slump and his ill-fated stolen base attempt that ended in pain.
Judge and the Yankees left Minnesota in a much better mood.
Judge had three hits and three RBIs and dodged an injury scare to help the Yankees avoid a rare sweep by the Twins with a 12-6 victory on Wednesday.
“It would’ve been a sad birthday if we would’ve got swept here,” Judge said.
Gleyber Torres drove a two-run homer into the second deck in a six-run fourth inning against Kenta Maeda (0-4), who left the mound with Twins athletic trainer Nick Paparesta for the second straight start and was tagged with a career-worst 11 hits and 10 runs. Manager Rocco Baldelli said afterward that Maeda was feeling muscle discomfort in his arm.
“It was far from a crisp game on our end,” Baldelli said, “and he wasn’t as crisp as he wants to be, either.”
Anthony Volpe and Anthony Rizzo each had two-run doubles off Maeda, as the lagging and injury-limited Yankees lineup posted season highs in hits (14) and runs (12). They totaled only eight runs over their previous five games, losing four.
“I feel like the past couple games, couple series, we’ve been a little passive and almost letting the pitcher kind of dictate the at-bat and dictate the flow of the game,” Judge said.
The Twins secured the season series with their 6-2 win on Tuesday, their first over the Yankees since 2001. The Twins still haven’t swept a single series from their biggest nemesis since a two-game set at the Metrodome in 1998. Their last three-game sweep of the Yankees was in 1991. Including the postseason, the Yankees are 117-44 against the Twins since 2002.
Judge tried to steal third base in the second inning after a three-run double, and he was thrown out on an awkward head-first slide as his shoulders lurched forward ahead of his arms. His right hand was jammed into the dirt underneath the weight of his body, and he jogged without stopping off the diamond and up the tunnel to the clubhouse, causing concerned looks in the dugout.
“Getting thrown out’s pretty embarrassing, even on your birthday, so I was just mad about that,” Judge said.
Squeezing and flexing his wrist upon his return to the bench, Judge — who was conveniently taking a turn as designated hitter — walked, singled and struck out looking in his next three at-bats. Manager Aaron Boone said he probably would've pinch hit for Judge had he come up again.
The Yankees, whose $360 million slugger set the American League record with 62 home runs last season, already have Harrison Bader, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton on the injured list.
“When you’re going through a little stretch where you’re having a real hard time scoring runs, it’s definitely nice to break through,” Boone said.
Judge is batting .316 with 31 runs, 12 doubles, 10 homers, 28 RBIs and 31 walks in 33 career starts against the Twins, reaching base in all but one of those games.
Jose Miranda homered twice, his first two of the season, and Joey Gallo also went deep against Yankees starter Domingo Germán (2-2), who pitched into the seventh inning with five hits and six runs allowed.
Germán beat the Twins at Yankee Stadium on April 15, when he had 11 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings with just one run allowed and the Twins believed he was pitching with excess rosin on his hand.
Maeda was struck on his ankle six days ago in Boston by an 111 mph line drive. That turn had been pushed back for extra rest for arm fatigue he'd been feeling in the early stage of his comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Yankees: RHP Tommy Kahnle (biceps tendintis), one of eight pitchers on the injured list, threw a problem-free first bullpen session. He's on track to return in about a month, Boone said.
Twins: DH Byron Buxton and 2B Jorge Polanco were off for planned rest. CF Michael Taylor was out of the lineup with some back discomfort, Baldelli said.
Yankees: RHP Gerrit Cole (4-0, 0.79 ERA) takes the mound on Thursday night to begin a four-game series at Texas. LHP Andrew Heaney (2-1, 4.34 ERA) pitches for the Rangers.
Twins: RHP Tyler Mahle (1-2, 3.32 ERA) starts on Thursday night to open a four-game series against Kansas City. RHP Zack Greinke (0-3, 4.61 ERA) pitches for the Royals.