Judge leads Yankees into Oakland (Jun 15, 2017)

BY AP • June 15, 2017

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Aaron Judge show hits the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time when the rookie sensation leads the New York Yankees up against the Oakland Athletics in a four-game series beginning Thursday night.

The first A's pitcher assigned to stall the rookie slugger will be right-hander Sonny Gray, who will be opposed by impressive Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery.

Judge, who has 26 home runs in just 88 career games since his major league debut last Aug. 13, has belted homers at seven opponent ballparks. That includes a 438-footer off Los Angeles Angels right-hander Bud Norris at the Big A on Monday night, his second-longest ever at a road park.

The California native and former Fresno State standout faced the A's three times in New York in May and collected his first grand slam, off Oakland right-hander Andrew Triggs on May 28. He didn't have any other RBIs in the series, but he did add three singles to complete a 4-for-10 effort.

Judge comes into play Thursday night batting .338, the second-best mark in the American League. He leads the AL with 22 homers and is second with 49 RBIs.

Gray has gone just 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA in four starts against the Yankees.

But the Yankees he will see Thursday don't resemble the ones he has faced in the past. For example, Gray has never pitched against Judge or power-hitting sidekick Gary Sanchez, who smacked his 11th home run Wednesday in a 7-5 loss to the Angels.

Gray has no wins since May 24, having allowed 12 runs and 15 hits in 17 2/3 innings in his last three starts.

But he has pitched well at home this season, going 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts.

The Yankees flew into Oakland early Thursday morning having lost two straight to the Angels after taking the series opener on Monday. They had won five in a row before heading west.

The A's, meanwhile, are happy to be home. They completed a 1-5 Florida swing by getting swept in a two-game series at Miami, lowering their road record to 9-25, the second worst in baseball.

The A's, however, are a more-than-respectable 18-13 at home, and will get a chance to improve on that against the rookie Montgomery, who has never started a big-league game west of Kansas City.

"We're happy to go home, happy to see our fans again," A's first baseman Yonder Alonso said Wednesday after an 11-6 loss to the Marlins. "We haven't played well, but what are we, seven games out in the wild card? When I was a rookie (in 2011), St. Louis was 11 games out of the wild card in September and won the World Series."

Montgomery has pitched well in June, going 2-0 in two starts with 13 strikeouts in 13 innings. The 24-year-old has allowed just four earned runs in his last four outings.

"The kid can pitch," Yankees manager Joe Girardi recently assessed. "People always ask me: Who do you compare him to? Andy (Pettitte) was similar to him. If he wants to pitch like Andy Pettitte for, like, 15 years, that's OK."

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