Of all the injuries the depleted Yankees have had this season, the one player they could not afford to lose was Aaron Judge, their superstar right fielder. In Saturday afternoon’s 9-2 win over the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees suffered that cruel fate.
Judge appeared to injure himself on a swing in the sixth inning. He grabbed his left side in the batter’s box and then grimaced and labored as he jogged to first base on a single to right field. He was removed immediately. Not long afterward, the Yankees announced that Judge had an injured left oblique and was having a magnetic resonance imaging test at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
In a postgame television interview, Manager Aaron Boone said Judge was probably headed to the injured list. Boone declined to speculate on the length of Judge’s absence until the severity of the injury was known. In past cases, players have often missed three to four weeks with oblique strains, but that varies with the severity.
If Judge lands on the injured list, he will become the 13th Yankee on it — the most of any team in the major leagues. In all, the Yankees have had 14 players on the I.L. this season; starting pitcher C. C. Sabathia is the only one so far to have come off it.
Judge was also hurt playing against Kansas City last season; in July, his right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch from Jakob Junis, and he missed nearly two months.
Boone said Judge was “obviously upset” by the latest injury but noted that Judge, beloved in the Yankees’ clubhouse, was most concerned about not being able to help his teammates.
“I truly feel it’s going to make it that much sweeter, having gone through all of this,” Boone said. “And we have a resilient group in there. We’re getting plenty of good news with players as they continue to work their way back. And we’ll find our way through this.”
The Yankees were aided on Saturday by starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (2-1), who struck out seven over seven innings. Judge, Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman and D. J. LeMahieu homered for the Yankees.
Boone was ejected from a game for the first time this season. In the third inning, he argued a call by video replay officials, who ruled that shortstop Gleyber Torres’s apparent three-run homer to left field was an out because of fan interference. Instead of a 5-0 lead for the Yankees, the score remained at 2-0. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, who has won six Gold Gloves, was attempting to make a difficult leaping catch, but a fan reached out and got his hands on the ball first.
It is perhaps no small accomplishment that the Yankees improved their record to 10-10, despite a soft schedule, with so many injuries to key players. Their I.L. could form almost an entire new team from stars such as relief pitcher Dellin Betances, starting pitcher Luis Severino, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and third baseman Miguel Andujar.
Through it all, there was Judge, who had played in all 20 of the Yankees’ games this season and was hitting .288. He smashed his fifth home run of the season in the first inning on Saturday. Then came the fateful sixth, in which Judge knew the ailment was serious enough to leave the game without any resistance. He does not take himself out of games; he played through a shoulder injury in the second half of 2017, having surgery on it after the season ended.
“He’s one guy on our team that’s irreplaceable,” outfielder Brett Gardner told reporters. He added later of all the injuries: “At this point, you don’t really know what to think of it. You just kind of shake your head.”
A bit of help might be on the way soon. Catcher Gary Sanchez, who landed on the I.L. on April 12, is expected to play one minor league rehabilitation game and return as soon as Wednesday, when the Yankees are in Anaheim, Calif., to play the Angels.