In the first 10 games of this road trip, the Royals had broken the Cleveland Indians’ 22-game winning streak, witnessed Alex Gordon set the major-league record for homers in a season and watched Mike Moustakas surpass Steve Balboni’s 32-year-old franchise home-run record.
On Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, there was more history — and not all of it was pleasant. In an 11-3 loss, the Royals were bystanders as Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge cranked home runs 49 and 50, breaking Mark McGwire’s record for homers by a rookie.
McGwire, the former single-season home run champ, clubbed 49 homers for the Oakland A’s in 1987. Judge matched that number with a two-run shot against Royals rookie starter Jakob Junis in the bottom of the third inning. He broke it in the seventh against reliever Trevor Cahill, hammering a 2-1 change-up 408 feet to left-center field.
“I definitely didn’t think it was too bad of a pitch,” Junis said of the first homer. “It was a heater running up and in at 95, and he’s just a really strong guy and muscled it out.”
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Judge finished 2 for 4 with two homers, a walk and three RBIs. His production sank the Royals as they concluded an 11-game road trip here in New York, finishing their 81-game road schedule with the makeup of a game originally rained out on May 25.
“He’s so strong,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “There’s not a part of the park that he can’t drive it out of.”
The Royals (76-80) finished 37-44 away from Kauffman Stadium and are six games behind the Minnesota Twins in the race for the second American League wild-card spot. They will be officially eliminated from playoff contention with another loss or Twins victory.
Junis, one of the success stories of a disappointing second half, yielded six runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, surrendering two-run homers to Judge and rookie first baseman Greg Bird. The bullpen turned the afternoon into a rout in the final innings.
As the playoff-bound Yankees inflicted damage, the Royals managed just three runs against veteran starter CC Sabathia, who pitched six-plus innings. The offense was limited to homers by Salvador Perez, who notched his 27th, and Mike Moustakas, who connected for his 38th, tying former Kansas City Athletic Bob Cerv for the most by a major-leaguer from a Kansas City organization.
Cerv, who played college baseball at Nebraska, hit 38 homers for the Athletics in 1958.