NEW YORK – Yankees fans have hoped to see this version of Aaron Judge, healthy and hacking his way toward a possible 60-homer season.
Matt Carpenter is a different matter. Signed off the scrap heap in May, the former St. Louis Cardinals slugger was a mighty large question mark.
“It's become an exclamation point,” manager Aaron Boone said.
And now New York is one win away from puncuating a memorable first half with a series victory over its bitter division rival.
Judge homered twice to match Roger Maris' franchise record of 33 before the All-Star break, Carpenter also connected twice and drove in seven runs, and the Yankees throttled the Boston Red Sox 14-1 Saturday night.
The major league-leading Yankees had lost five of six, and they seemed to be stumbling again when Boston's Rafael Devers hit a first-inning homer.
Jameson Taillon steadied himself, retiring his final 17 batters while pitching one-run ball over six innings. Ryan Weber closed out New York's three-hitter with a three-inning save — the first of his career — and the Yankees earned their big league-best 28th comeback win. Their 63 wins are a franchise most before the All-Star break.
Judge had a solo shot off Nick Pivetta in the fifth and a two-run drive against Kaleb Ort in the sixth. He's on pace for 59 home runs, giving him a chance to threaten Maris' club record of 61 set in 1961. Maris had 33 at the All-Star break that season.
“It's incredible,” Judge said. “We still got one more day. Don't cut me short now.”
A season-high sellout of 47,997 fans pleaded Carpenter into a curtain call following his three-run drive against Darwinzon Hernandez in the fifth. That one put the Yankees ahead 8-1, and they finished the night 5-4 against the Red Sox this season entering Sunday's series finale.
“To have that moment here with this group of fans and on this team and where this year started for me, pretty special,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter's other homer was also a three-run shot, and he drew a 13-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the eighth. His seven RBIs matched a career high, a feat he also accomplished June 12 against the Cubs.
He has 13 homers and 31 RBIs in 30 games since joining New York after the Texas Rangers released him from a minor league contract in May. Four of those homers have come against Boston over the past nine days.
It's quite a turnaround for the 36-year-old, who spent the winter crafting a new swing after hitting just .169 with St. Louis last year.
“I think it’s a testament to him and wanting to squeeze everything out of his career,” Boone said.
Taillon (10-2) allowed just two hits and struck out five before leaving the blowout with just 79 pitches. The right-hander had an 8.57 ERA over his past four starts, including a pounding at Fenway Park last weekend.
“It was nice to have a nice, relaxing win,” he said.
Pivetta (8-7) ended a strong first half of the season by allowing seven runs in 4 1/3 innings, and the Red Sox dropped to 6-13 in their past 19 games.
Yankees players have described the past week — a blip during an otherwise brilliant season to date — as a necessary bit of adversity.
They caught a little more of it when Devers connected in the first inning for the second consecutive night. The solo drive was his 22nd this season, and he’s connected in three straight games overall.
New York responded by pummeling Pivetta in the bottom of the inning. After hard base hits from Judge and Anthony Rizzo, Carpenter rocked a three-run homer to right for a 4-1 lead.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before the game that he would push Pivetta back in the rotation after the All-Star break to get him a breather. His 108 innings pitched lead the team by more than 30 frames, prompting concern about his workload.
“He has struggled the last three or four, right?” Cora said. “It seemed like his command is not there the way it was when he got rolling, and hopefully now he'll get a break, reset and be ready for his first one after the All-Star break.”
HE DID WHAT?
Boston center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. sprinted to the wall in the left-center gap and made a basket catch over his left shoulder on DJ LeMahieu's drive leading off the first inning.
IF YOU'RE CURIOUS ...
Barry Bonds holds the major league record with 39 homers prior to the All-Star break in 2001 en route to the single-season mark of 73.
Red Sox: 2B Trevor Story (bruised right hand) was placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Thursday. ... C Connor Wong was recalled from Triple-A Worcester.
Yankees: RHP Miguel Castro was placed on the 15-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. He's not expected to resume throwing for a month. ... OF Tim Locastro was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... RHP Luis Severino (right lat) is expected to take two weeks off from throwing.
Red Sox LHP Chris Sale (0-0, 0.00 ERA) faces Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole (8-2, 3.05) on Sunday in his second start of the season after being sidelined by a broken rib. Sale pitched five scoreless innings against the Rays in his season debut Tuesday night. Cole pitched seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts against Cincinnati in a 4-3 loss Tuesday.
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