May 23, 2023 | 10:38 p.m.
When the Yankees were about to lose to a rising rival, they turned to the Captain and the Kid.
An Aaron Judge tying home run and an Anthony Volpe game-winning sacrificial fly gave the Yankees their best fifth straight win of the season, a 6-5, 10 innings decision against the Orioles on Tuesday night in the Bronx.
Down a run and two outs after a loss, Judge crushed a suspended splitter from closer star Felix Bautista for his 14th homer of the season to save the Yankees and send the game into extra innings.
“He’s the best player in the world right now,” manager Aaron Boone said after Judge’s eighth home run in nine games.
The judge can’t come every time, can he?
“It looks plausible every time he gets to home plate,” Gerrit Cole (five innings, five runs) said with a smile.
What’s unbelievable to others has become frankly expected of the American League home run record holder.
“I thought exactly what happened was going to happen,” Volpe said of Judge’s outburst in the ninth inning. “Everything he does, he makes it easy.”
After some great work from Michael King, who blocked the Orioles’ ghost runner on second base at the top of 10th — with the help of a nice jump catch from Volpe — the Yankees made contact when they needed it.
In the 10th, a Harrison Bader groundout moved ghost runner Isiah Kiner-Falefa to third. Orioles pitcher Bryan Baker intentionally walked Willie Calhoun, setting up the double play.
If Volpe has shown one weakness in his first 50 major league games, it’s his tendency to swing and miss.
But Volpe connected and sent a long fly ball to center field for a sacrifice fly and was mobbed around first base.
“It’s been fun watching him sail with all eyes on him,” Boone said after Volpe’s first career outing. “He handles everything so well and has such a good head on his shoulders. Knows how to act, just advanced in his approach and makeup.
“I felt like the right guy was up there.”
He was not alone. Watching from the dugout, Judge also had faith in the 22-year-old rookie.
“He’s been swinging the bat well all year,” Judge said. “He hit the ball hard and was not rewarded.”
The Yankees (30-20) have won seven of their last eight games after coming out of a four-run hole in the fourth inning and a one-run hole in the ninth.
As a result, they stole the opener of a series against a rising AL East rival.
“They are a force. They are a problem,” Boone said before the resurgent Orioles game (31-17). “It’s a very good team.”
Before the Magic ended, a potential seventh-inning Yankees rally unfolded when a curious DJ LeMahieu bunt backfired.
The Yankees were down 5-4 when they mounted a rally against Yennier Cano, who was one of baseball’s best relievers and lowered his ERA to .35.
Still, singles by Gleyber Torres and Anthony Rizzo — just the eighth and ninth hits Cano has allowed all season — tied the potential run on third base with one out.
LeMahieu, the cleanup hitter, attempted a tight bunt with Torres running on contact. The bunt went straight to Cano, who returned home to easily catch Torres.
After Bader retired to end the inning, many boos were heard from a crowd of 40,652, who were also unhappy at the start of the game.
Cole, who dropped too many gopher balls one night in which a squirrel in the outfield went viral, had dug the Yankees down a 4-0 hole in the fourth inning when Bader threw his fifth homer of the season.
An inning later, the Yankees turned four hits into three runs to tie the game.
Rizzo’s double scored Oswaldo Cabrera before LeMahieu’s single scored Torres. Bader’s sacrificial fly brought Rizzo home to tie the game at 4-4.
The Orioles crossed the go-ahead in the next inning, when Cole allowed two singles before being called out.
Ron Marinaccio came in and a swinging bunt from Gunnar Henderson and an RBI pitch from Terrin Vavra gave the Orioles the lead.
It wouldn’t last because of the captain and, later, his mate.
“You just look and shake your head,” Boone said of Judge. “He did it again.”