Faulty defense taketh away, faulty defense giveth.
After a fielding miscue by Isiah Kiner-Falefa led to a five-run implosion by Gerrit Cole, the Yankees mounted a comeback three innings later with the help of an error by Royals shortstop Maikel Garcia.
Fittingly enough, it was Kiner-Falefa who then delivered the go-ahead RBI before Aaron Judge blew the game open with his second home run of the night, a grand slam, to complete the eight-run eighth inning and lift the Yankees to an 11-5 victory over the Royals on Friday night in The Bronx.
Judge’s six-RBI night capped off the latest chapter of his MVP-caliber season, as the right fielder robbed MJ Melendez, the first batter of the game, of a home run with a catch at the wall. He later added his 40th and 41st home runs to power the Yankees (68-33) for the second straight night.
Judge became the first Yankee since Roger Maris in 1961 to reach the 40-homer mark before August, and joined Babe Ruth (1928, 1921) as the only players in franchise history with 41 homers through the first 101 games.
The Yankees entered a 23-minute rain delay before the top of the eighth trailing 5-3, but got to work in the bottom of the inning.
The rally began with one out on Anthony Rizzo’s infield single, which Gleyber Torres followed with another single. Josh Donaldson then hit a potential inning-ending double play ball to shortstop, but Garcia bobbled it to leave the bases loaded.
Andrew Benintendi came up next and recorded his first hit as a Yankee, an infield single to first base that drove in Rizzo and cut the deficit to 5-4. After Aaron Hicks tried to say he got hit by a pitch, he ended up drawing a walk to drive home Torres with the tying run.
Kiner-Falefa then found redemption, ripping a single through the left side to put the Yankees up 6-5 and extend his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games.
After Jose Trevino added an insurance run on an RBI groundout, DJ LeMahieu singled to reload the bases for Judge, who roped the grand slam to right to make it 11-5.
Wandy Peralta then took care of the Royals (39-61) in the ninth inning, striking out the side around a walk and a single, to lock down the Yankees’ second straight win.
Cole cruised early before running into trouble in the fifth inning. The Royals loaded the bases with two outs on three straight singles — one of which could have been an error on Kiner-Falefa as a hard one-hopper bounced right through him, and one of which didn’t leave the infield.
Kiner-Falefa had allowed an infield single on a double clutch in the third inning, but that didn’t come back to hurt the Yankees.
This one did. Cole was one strike away from escaping the fifth with the shutout intact when Whit Merrifield slapped a two-run single the other way to make it 3-2.
Two pitches later, Cole unleashed a 100 mph fastball at the top of the zone that Salvador Perez turned on and clobbered for a three-run shot that put the Royals ahead 5-3.
A night after ending a 1-0 victory with a home run, Judge started the game Friday with a home run robbery. Starting his first game in right field since July 10, Judge raced back to the wall, leaped and used all of his 6-foot-7 frame to reach over and bring back what would have been a leadoff home run by Melendez.
Rizzo then gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, crushing a home run to left-center field off Royals left-hander Kris Bubic.
Judge blasted his 40th home run of the season in the third inning, a two-run bomb that traveled an estimated 449 feet deep into the seats in left-center field to make it 3-0.