Major League Baseball

Judge returns as Yanks aim for 7th straight vs. Astros

mlb5ASTROS (48-28) AT YANKEES (47-27)

For the past two months, the New York Yankees figured out ways to win without Aaron Judge.

On Friday, the Yankees will be able to pencil Judge’s name into their already potent lineup when they host the Houston Astros in the second game of a four-game series between division leaders.

The Yankees are 37-17 since Judge strained his left oblique while hitting a single on April 20 against the Kansas City Royals. Judge said he has been pain-free for a while, and he returns after going 2-for-16 in five rehab games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.

Judge will be the third big bat incorporated into the lineup this week. On Monday, American League home run leader Edwin Encarnacion made his debut after being acquired in a trade with Seattle, and the following day Giancarlo Stanton returned from missing over two months on the injured list.

“When I get back on the field, I’ve got to play,” Judge told reporters. “I’m not going to try to baby it or go at 80 percent. We’re in the major leagues. I’m going to go at it 100 percent. I’m going to play at it 100 percent. We’re ready to go. That’s not something I’m worried about happening again.

“We added an AL-leading home run hitter in (Edwin) Encarnacion, which I’m excited about. This is going to be fun. Like I said before, I’m trying to crack this lineup now and know where I’m going to fit in. We’ll see.”

Judge will be returning to a team that has scored 49 runs in a six-game winning streak. The Yankees opened the series with a 10-6 victory when Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu and Encarnacion homered, marking their 23rd straight game with a homer — two shy of the team record set in 1941.

Houston will attempt to halt a season-high five-game losing streak after being unable to make the most of 12 hits in the series opener.

Jake Marisnick hit two homers, while Alex Bregman and rookie Yordan Alvarez also connected, but the Astros allowed double-digit runs for the second time in their skid.

“They’re dangerous whenever they get into these hitter’s counts, and it started from the very first hitter of the blowup inning,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “They showed how explosive they are. We couldn’t keep the ball in the ballpark, and the game kind of got away from us for a little bit.”

The Astros will also attempt to avoid losing six straight for the first time since dropping seven in a row from June 4-10, 2016.

New York’s James Paxton (4-3, 3.93 ERA) attempts to win consecutive starts for the first time this season when he makes his fifth start since returning from a knee injury. Paxton last pitched in Sunday’s 10-3 win at Chicago when he allowed two runs on eight hits in six innings.

Paxton faced the Astros on April 10 in Houston and allowed five runs in four innings in an 8-6 loss. He is 7-4 with a 3.33 ERA in 13 career starts against Houston.

Houston’s Brad Peacock (6-4, 3.67) is 1-2 with a 5.51 ERA in his last three starts. His last start was Sunday’s 12-0 loss to Toronto, when he allowed four runs on five hits in five innings.

Peacock is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in six outings, all in relief, against New York.

–Field Level Media

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