Judge breaks McGwire’s HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees hits a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium on September 25, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The home run was number 50 on the season. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Aaron Judge broke Mark McGwire’s major league record for home runs by a rookie, hitting a pair for the second straight day to raise his total to 50 and lead the New York Yankees over the Kansas City Royals 11-3 Monday.

The 6-foot-7, 25-year-old slugger tied the mark with a two-run drive to right-center off Jakob Junis (8-3) in the third inning that put New York ahead 3-0. His solo shot over the visitors’ bullpen in left against Trevor Cahill in the seventh made it 7-3 and earned him a rare curtain call.

Judge has 13 home runs in September and six in five games, and he is second in the majors behind Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who has 57. Judge has four multihomer games this month and seven this season.

Judge was hitting .329 with 30 homers and 66 RBIs when he won the All-Star Home Run Derby, then slumped to a .179 average with seven homers and 16 RBIs from the start of the second half through Aug. 31, striking out 67 times in 44 games. His September rebound boosted his average to .283 with 108 RBIs and an AL-leading 120 walks and a big league-high 203 strikeouts, putting himself back into MVP consideration.

McGwire hit 49 homers for Oakland in 1987, breaking the previous mark of 38 set by the Boston Braves’ Wally Berger in 1930 and matched by Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson in 1956.

Greg Bird added a two-run homer into the right field second deck in the sixth, his seventh home run this season and fourth in nine games. Gary Sanchez followed Judge in the seventh with back-to-back homers for the third time this year, raising his total to 33.

CC Sabathia (13-5) took a 6-0 lead into the seventh, when Salvador Perez hit a two-run homer and Mike Moustakas chased him by going deep four pitches later. Mixing sharp cutters and sliders, Sabathia improved to 9-0 in 11 starts this year after Yankees’ losses and 21-11 in his career against Kansas City. He allowed six hits in six-plus innings.

New York, which began the day five games behind AL East-leading Boston, needs one win or a Minnesota loss to clinch home field in the AL wild-card game on Oct. 3. Didi Gregorius had an RBI groundout in the first and scored on Matt Holliday’s double in the sixth.

Kansas City, starting perhaps its final week with potential free agents Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Moustakas, was pushed to the brink of postseason elimination. The Royals headed home from an 11-game, four-city trip trailing the Twins for the second AL wild card by six games with six games left. Kansas City went 37-44 on the road, three more wins than last year.

Junis gave up six runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He had been 6-0 in eight starts and two relief appearance since a June 29 loss at Detroit.

Kansas City returned to New York for a makeup of a May 25 rainout, and the ballpark was half-full on a warm autumn afternoon with the temperature in the mid-80s.

CENTURY MARK?

Yankees leadoff hitter Brett Gardner scored three times and has 94 runs, three shy of his career high. Manager Joe Girardi challenged him during spring training to reach 100.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: OF Aaron Hicks (oblique) was to start playing in instructional league games at New York’s minor league complex.

UP NEXT

Royals: LHP Jason Vargas (17-10) starts Tuesday’s homestand opener against Detroit and RHP Jordan Zimmermann (8-13).

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (13-6) or Jordan Montgomery (8-7) will start Tuesday’s series opener against Tampa Bay, which goes with LHP Blake Snell (4-6).