McCoy: De La Cruz Outshines ‘The Judge’

By Hal McCoy

Every time Aaron Judge sticks his head out of the dugout, the pitcher becomes Nervous Norvis.

And rightfully so.

And it is fast becoming the same way for Elly De La Cruz.

Sure enough, Judge hit an Aaron Judge home Tuesday night in Yankee Stadium. And he added two singles.

And sure enough, De La Cruz hit an Elly De La Cruz home run. And he added a triple.

The difference? De La Cruz’s two-run rip was the winning blast in a 5-4 Cincinnati Reds win over the New York Yankees. It is only the Reds’ seventh one-run win against 16 one-run losses.

In addition, the De La Cruz triple enabled him to score the game’s first run.

The Reds constructed a 5-0 lead against Yankees starter and nine-game winner Luis Gil — pronounced Heel and the Reds found his Achilles Heel.

The Reds broke through in the fourth inning when De La Cruz, batting left-handed, tripled into the right field corner, his sixth triple this season. He scored on Jeimer Candelario’s ground ball.

A four-run fifth inning gave the Reds a 5-0 lead. It began when Gil hit Stuart Fairchild with a pitch and Will Benson homered. When Gil hit Jonathan India with a pitch, New York manager Aaron Boone brought in left-hander Caleb Ferguson to face De La Cruz.

This time, batting right-handed, the switch-hitting De La Cruz deposited his 15th homer, a 425-foot shot into the left field seats.

There have been suggestions that De La Cruz abandon batting right-handed and stick to the left side. Only six of his 15 homers have come from the right side. But they’ve come in much fewer at bats.

“No, I feel the same way, the same way,” he said during a post-game interview with Bally Sports Ohio. “I know I can do that from both sides.”

De La Cruz, like so many Dominicans, grew up as a Yankees fan and former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is his idol.

So playing in Yankee Stadium was special.

“It was amazing,” he said. “It was loud, it was very loud. I love it. I love playing here. I want to play here.”

Those were dire words for Reds fans to hear, especially when on-the-field broadcaster Jim Day asked him, “Some day you want to play here?”

Said De La Cruz, “Yeah, I want to be here.”

Fortunately for the Reds, De La Cruz cannot become a free agent until 2030.

The Yankees then began their comeback against Graham Ashcraft, who had held them to no runs and two hits through five innings. But he didn’t get anybody out in the sixth.

Judge started a three-run rallu in the sixth with a bloop single to right. Ashcraft walked Alex Verdugo on four pitches and Gleyber Torres singled for a run.

Nick Martinez replaced Ashcraft and gave up a two-run double to Ben Rice to make it 5-3. But he retired the next three.

With two outs in the seventh, left-hander Sam Moll tried to slip a first-pitch fast ball past Judge, which is like trying to slip a waffle past Fats Domino.

Judge rocked his MLB-leading 32nd home run into the left field seats and it was 5-4.

With their team within one run, the 41,219 fans had Yankee Stadium wobbling on its foundation.

Fernando Cruz pitched a perfect eighth inning with a strikeout and closer Alexis Diaz cruised easily with a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout for his 18th save. In addition, it made Ashcraft a winner for the fifth time this season.

The Reds might be catching the Yankees at a good time. They’ve lost eight of their last 11.

Once again, the Reds have won the first game of a series. They did it against Boston, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, but didn’t win the series.

In their last six series, they’ve lost four and split two. And once again they are afforded the opportunity to win two games in a row, something they haven’t done since June 13-14.

They beat Cleveland, 4-2, in a two-game series finale on June 13, then beat Milwaukee, 6-5, in a series opener on June 14.

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