TORONTO — There were hot-tempered fireworks near home plate in the eighth inning on Wednesday evening at Rogers Centre, an old-school act that began with Yankees manager Aaron Boone whipping his wad of chewing gum across the artificial turf, indicating that he meant business in defending his players.
Boone was swiftly ejected by home-plate umpire Marty Foster, having barked too much about strikes called on Aaron Judge, and the Yankees’ winning streak ended with a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays. Yet music played at moderate volume as they zipped their bags to head home; 11 consecutive victories should earn some tunes.
“Winning 11 in a row, that’s no small task,” said third baseman Josh Donaldson. “Losing a one-run game on the road, we had an opportunity there in the ninth to go ahead, and I liked our chances right there. Today we weren’t able to cash it in, but the next time, I’ll be expecting us to.”
Though New York loaded the bases in the ninth inning against Jordan Romano, Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded out, with the series ending when first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did the splits and hung on to the throw from third baseman Matt Chapman. The Yanks’ offense was thus limited to Joey Gallo’s third-inning home run, a rare off night after they averaged 7.18 runs per game during the winning streak.
Part of it, Boone thought, was taking the bat out of Judge’s hands. Judge has seen more than his share of low called strikes over the years, and Boone was irked by a sixth-inning at-bat in which Kikuchi seemed to be pitching around the slugger, yet was able to ring up a strikeout. Boone blew a fuse when similar pitches were called on Judge in the eighth.
“I was upset a little bit there; upset with a couple of others,” Boone said. “But nothing more than that. We’re playing for a lot. I just felt like there were a couple there in situations that didn’t go our way.”
It is not Judge’s style to show up an umpire. As a big leaguer, he has never engaged in the theatrics Boone showcased on Wednesday, though Judge admits he had a few moments like that during his college career. Judge now prefers to make his comments quietly while digging into the box, a la Derek Jeter, and he was pleased that his manager went to bat for him once again.
“I appreciate it,” Judge said. “I voiced my opinion to Marty during the game and let him know what I was thinking about the calls. At that point, that’s all I can do. That’s why I have a manager to stick up for me. If I get tossed in that situation, it’s going to hurt us. He stood up for us and for me, and I appreciate it.”
So, about that winning streak, which began on April 22 against the Guardians at Yankee Stadium — opening with a string of sweeps over Cleveland, the Orioles and Royals, then seeing New York hand Toronto its first series loss of the year by taking the first two contests north of the border.
“It was pretty special,” said Nestor Cortes, who tossed 83 pitches over four innings on Wednesday. “I felt like every time we came in here, we knew we were going to win. I feel like that’s the mindset this year. We have the guys to do it.”
It was a special blend of hitting, pitching and defense, with players up and down the roster making contributions. Judge slugged at an otherworldly level, hitting .357 (15-for-42) with eight homers, 17 RBIs and 12 runs scored, but he had plenty of support from the cast around him.
The 11-game streak was the Yanks’ second-longest in the last 37 seasons, trailing only a 13-game streak from Aug. 14-27, 2021. Bombers hurlers posted a 2.66 ERA with 98 strikeouts (one per inning) over the streak, while the offense slashed at a .287/.352/.528 clip with 23 homers and 76 RBIs. In short, it was fun to watch.
“It’s just 11 games — we’ve got more work to do,” Judge said. “A lot of good things happened. It showed what this team is made of.”
The Yankees won 18 of their first 24 games for the first time since 2003, a season that saw them reach the World Series — on the strength of Boone’s home run off a floating Tim Wakefield knuckleball in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox.
More than once over this span, it seemed fair to wonder if the present-day Yankees might have something special cooking, too. And now, as they return home, there is only one thing to do.
“Start it back up again,” said outfielder Aaron Hicks. “We had a good stretch, and we know we’re capable of winning that many games again.”