NEW YORK — 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…