NEW YORK – His chambers left empty, Aaron Judge still rules right field at Yankee Stadium.
Judge homered for the third straight night, Jordan Montgomery cut up one of the league's hottest lineups in his 2020 debut and the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-1 on Friday in their first home game of this coronavirus-shortened season.
“Red Sox-Yankees in the Bronx, we knew this place would have been packed,” Judge said. “So it was a little bit different.”
Judge took aim at Yankee Stadium's short right field porch in the third, a half-inning after starting a double play from right. Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner hit their first home runs of the season, and New York improved to 5-1.
Michael Chavis homered for Boston and Phillips Valdez impressed over 2 2/3 scoreless innings, but the club couldn't overcome another poor start by Ryan Weber (0-2).
The Bronx hosted its first game amid growing concern that baseball’s plan to play through the pandemic may not work. Eight teams, including New York, have had their schedules interrupted over the first nine days of the season due to positive tests on the Marlins, Phillies and Cardinals.
Despite that growing anxiety — and the lack of fans — the Yankees tried to make pregame festive. Players lined up along the baselines for introductions, radio announcer Suzyn Waldman performed the national anthem with gusto from her booth, and both dugouts banged on kitchenware during a 7 p.m. cheer to recognize front-line workers battling the coronavirus.
There was also a moment of silence for late Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner, who died in April. New York is wearing uniform patches with his initials this season.
After that, one of the more bizarre experiences yet in the sport's biggest rivalry.
“Kind of bittersweet," Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka said. "I would think pretty much every single one of us would say one of the best experiences playing for the Yankees is packed house versus the Red Sox.”
Judge narrowly cleared the fence with a line drive estimated at 376 feet. Statcast projected the ball would have only been a home run in the Bronx and at Angel Stadium.
"A breaking ball up and in and somehow he stays inside it and it goes out the other way,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “He’s that strong. You just can’t make mistakes to him.”
Judge also started the double play from right field, where he has his own cheering section for gavel-wielding fans that will be left unfilled this season. Judge caught J.D. Martinez’s line drive in the third and picked off Kevin Pillar, who ventured too far from first base.
Montgomery (1-0) pitched 5 2/3 innings against a lineup that entered the day leading the majors in batting average (.276) and the AL in OPS (.783). The left-hander limited the Red Sox to a run, five hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
The 27-year-old Montgomery made just two appearances, one start, last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He returned this year with more speed and movement, particularly on his cut fastball. This was his first victory since April 21, 2018.
“Glad to get that one off my shoulders," he said.
Weber struggled for the second straight outing, allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings after allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings against Baltimore in his season debut.
Urshela connected off Weber for a solo drive in the fourth, and Gardner reached the second deck in right with a two-run shot in the eighth off Colten Brewer.
All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman has been cleared to return to Yankee Stadium following a bout with the coronavirus. Boone said he wasn’t sure when the hard-throwing left-hander would be ready for game action.
Waldman's anthem performance was years in the making. During spring training in 2011, Waldman approached then-Pirates minor leaguer Gerrit Cole and predicted that one day, he'd sign with the Yankees. Cole retorted that if he did, Waldman would have to sign “The Star-Spangled Banner” at his first home opener.
Cole — who signed a $324 million, nine-year deal with New York last December — tipped his cap to Waldman before she began singing Friday.
CALL ME BIG HOPPA
Retired left-hander CC Sabathia threw the ceremonial first pitch and bounced it to home plate. Sabathia said it was the farthest he's thrown a ball since dislocating his shoulder on his final big league pitch last October.
“Just reinforces my decision to retire," he said.
Yankees: RHP Tommy Kahnle is likely to have Tommy John surgery after an MRI revealed an issue with his right ulnar collateral ligament. ... RHP Masahiro Tanaka says he will wear a protective insert in his hat when he returns to the mound Saturday. Tanaka has been out since being hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton’s line drive during New York’s first official preseason workout.
Tanaka opposes RHP Zack Godley (0-0, 0.00), who pitched four scoreless innings in relief Monday and now gets a chance to help Boston's struggling rotation.
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