NEW YORK, N.Y. - Leadoff man Aaron Judge singled twice during a six-run first inning off Corey Kluber as the New York Yankees started with seven straight hits for the first time since 1990 and routed the Tampa Bay Rays 10-3 Saturday.
Josh Donaldson homered early and Giancarlo Stanton connected late off a lob pitch as both players returned to the lineup and helped the AL East-leading Yankees move to 4 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay. New York also clinched the season head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rays should the teams finish even atop the division.
Judge, leading the majors with 55 home runs, hit three singles in raising his average to .307. He is the first Yankees player to reach base at least three times in seven straight games since Mickey Mantle in June 1957.
Judge also is the seventh Yankee to reach base at least three times in at least seven straight games. Besides Mantle, Babe Ruth did it in 1920, Lou Gehrig achieved it twice in 1936 and 1937, Tommy Henrich did it in 1938 and Joe DiMaggio along with Frank Crosetti achieved the feat in 1939.
"Obviously, every team’s a little bit different in how they attack and pitchers are a little bit different but we’ve seen teams in some cases really pitch around him and stay away from him," manager Aaron Boone.
"The Rays tend to go after him a little bit more, but take what the game gives you. Mike Schmidt used to always say that to me when I was a kid," said Boone, whose father, Bob, was a teammate of the Hall of Fame third baseman in Philadelphia.
Judge has reached base in 12 straight games, reaching base multiple times in 11 games. He also reached base at least three times for a major league-leading 41st time.
The Yankees opened a game with seven straight hits — all singles — for the first time since starting a 15-3 win over Baltimore with eight hits in a row on Sept. 25, 1990.
"It was just a collection of really good at-bats," Boone said.
Judge’s RBI single with two outs in the first chased Kluber (10-8) after 32 pitches. It was the two-time Cy Young Award winner's shortest career outing.
"Too many mistakes," Kluber said.
Donaldson came back from the paternity list and hit an RBI single that bounced off the top of the fence in the first. After flipping his bat on the single, Donaldson homered in the second. He had missed four games following the birth of his daughter.
"Being home, being around my family going through that experience is pretty special and just really putting things in perspective and having that joy to come out here and play the game I love to play," Donaldson said.
Stanton hit his 25th home run, connecting on a 47 mph lob from catcher Christian Bethancourt in the eighth. Stanton had been limited to pinch-hitting appearances in the previous two games since fouling a ball off his left foot in the sixth on Monday.
Stanton declared himself ready to play after texting Boone and snapped a 17-game homerless streak. He reached 25 homers for the ninth time in his career.
"Hey, they all count," Stanton said of homering off a position player.
Stanton’s homer was his first extra-base hit in 55 at-bats since he homered and won the MVP award in the All-Star Game on July 19. He had missed a month with Achilles tendinitis since then.
New York starter Jameson Taillon (13-4) gave up three runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings and got his 50th career win.
Judge led off the first with a single as the Yankees broke loose from the start. Rookie Oswaldo Cabrera hit a two-run single and scored on a grounder by Kyle Higashioka on New York’s first out of the game.
Wander Franco hit an RBI single and Harold Ramírez added a two-run single as Tampa Bay lost for the second time in 11 games.
Donaldson hit his 13th homer in the second. He stumbled home in the seventh on a wild pitch by Calvin Faucher.
HICKS’ FOLLOW UP
Struggling LF Aaron Hicks did not play after misplaying two flyballs in the fourth inning on Friday and getting pulled midgame.
Hicks didn't catch balls hit by Franco and Randy Arozarena that led to run-scoring doubles.
On the Franco hit, the ball dropped out of his glove along the left-field foul line and Hicks initially thought he caught the ball and it was foul before reacting.
Boone said he was planned to have a conversation with Hicks, who struck out twice Friday and is hitting .211.
"You always got to get to that point where things I think are affecting you," Boone said. "Kind of becoming that target. Hopefully this is something that you get to that point where you get through it and it doesn’t bother you, doesn’t get to you."
Rays: LHP Shane McClanahan (left shoulder impingement) may throw a light session Sunday and is on track to return from the injured list when eligible next Thursday.
Yankees: 1B Anthony Rizzo (headaches from epidural injection) could start ramping up activities on Sunday. Rizzo’s could return by the end of the upcoming road trip. … RHP Luis Severino (strained right lat) will make another rehab start Thursday and could rejoin the rotation Sept. 21 against Pittsburgh. … LHP Aroldis Chapman (leg infection) will appear in rehab game for Double-A Somerset Sunday along with RHP Miguel Castro (strained right shoulder), OF Harrison Bader (right foot plantar fasciitis) and LHP Zack Britton (Tommy John surgery). … LHP Scott Effross (strained right shoulder) threw a bullpen session Saturday.
Tampa Bay RHP Luis Patiño (1-1, 4.34) opposes New York RHP Domingo Germán (2-3, 3.27 ERA) Sunday.