ANAHEIM, Calif. — It used to be that when the fans at Angel Stadium chanted “MVP! MVP!” it was for their own Mike Trout.
But with the Los Angeles Angels center fielder and defending American League MVP relegated to the bench as he recovers from surgery on his thumb, the locals apparently have found a new favorite.
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge heard the MVP chants from the heavy Yankee fan contingent on Monday night, particularly after his two-run home run in the eighth inning snapped a 3-3 tie and lifted the Yankees to a 5-3 win.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it, to be honest,” Judge said of the MVP chants. “I was focused on the game at hand. It was a close game, so I didn’t think about it.”
The home run off Angels reliever Bud Norris was Judge’s major league-leading 22nd of the season, but it didn’t have to happen. The Yankees had Aaron Hicks on second base (double) with one out. But instead of walking Judge intentionally and taking their chances with Matt Holliday, the Angels pitched to Judge.
Norris fell behind in the count 2-0 before grooving a 91-mph cut fastball over the middle of the plate and Judge hammered it at least 10 rows into the seats in right-center field.
“There was, yeah,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said when asked if there was consideration given to walking Judge. “With a base open and Bud being able to move the ball and spin it, you’re hoping you can get (Judge) to expand a little bit.
“Every hitter’s got some holes and you’re hoping that Bud can get to it. Unfortunately, the cutter wasn’t where it needed to be. I liked the fact that there was an open base where he had a chance to maybe expand, and also you got a tough middle (of the lineup) coming up.”
Judge struck out in his first two at-bats of the game, then walked and singled before coming up in the eighth. But he said he wasn’t surprised the Angels decided against putting him on base.
“No, I was getting ready to hit, and I expected them to (pitch to him),” Judge said. “We have Matt Holliday behind me, then (Starlin) Castro, we’ve got a good lineup.”
While Judge is hitting tape-measure home runs and getting late night talk show appearances, Didi Gregorius is putting together a nice little season of his own.
The Yankees shortstop extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with four hits. He drove in the Yankees’ first two runs with two-out, RBI singles in the third and fifth innings. And when he came to bat with a runner in scoring position and two outs in the seventh, the Angels walked him intentionally.
The move backfired as Chase Headley followed with an RBI single to put New York up 3-1.
The Yankees got a welcomed performance from starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who entered the game 0-5 with a 10.72 ERA in his last five starts. Yankees manager Joe Girardi was concerned enough to push Tanaka back a day in the rotation to give him an extra day of rest.
Tanaka responded with six strong innings, before the Angels knocked him out of the game in the seventh. Tanaka, who got a no-decision, gave up three runs (one earned) and four hits in 6 2/3 innings.
He took a 3-1 lead into the seventh, but an error by third baseman Headley prevented Tanaka from a 1-2-3 inning. Instead, the inning was extended and Danny Espinosa‘s two-out, RBI single knocked Tanaka out of the game. Cameron Maybin followed with an RBI double off Tyler Clippard to tie the game at 3-3, with the run being charged to Tanaka.
Clippard (1-3) got the victory over Jose Alvarez (0-3). Dellin Betances got the final four outs for his sixth save.
Angels starter Alex Meyer gave up two runs and five hits but lasted only 4 2/3 innings, his outing abbreviated because of five walks and a high pitch count (93).
“Just when it looks like he’s on the verge of getting over that hump and finding it, much like a lot of power pitchers, he just was not able to get back in that zone and make some pitches,” Scioscia said. “They had a lot of traffic early, he almost got out of some stuff, but 4 2/3 innings and 90-something pitches, that’s a lot of work, that’s a heavy day.”
Kole Calhoun homered for the Angels.
NOTES: Yankees RF Aaron Judge was named the American League Player of the Week for the week ending June 11. Judge hit .500 (12-for-24) with three homers, six RBIs, three doubles and 10 runs scored in six games. “If the MVP were voted on today, he’d win that, too,” Yankees OF Brett Gardner told mlb.com. … The Yankees selected RHP Clarke Schmidt in the first round of Monday’s draft, the 16th player picked overall. Schmidt, 21, was 4-2 with a 1.34 ERA while holding opponents to a .194 average at the University of South Carolina before undergoing Tommy John surgery in April. … The Angels selected OF Jordon “Jo” Adell in the first round of Monday’s draft, the 10th player picked overall. Adell, 18, hit .562 with 25 homers, 61 RBIs, 22 stolen bases and 53 runs scored in his senior season at Ballard High School in Louisville, Ky. … Yankees RHP Ben Heller was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Heller was 2-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 20 relief appearances for the RailRiders this season. RHP Domingo German was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room on the roster for Heller.