Yankees’ Aaron Judge set to return to face Royals

The New York Yankees checked off all the boxes on their Monday to-do list.

They got Juan Soto back in the lineup, managed to give Aaron Judge his first day off of the season and still beat the host Kansas City Royals 4-2.

The Yankees hope Tuesday will be as kind when they continue their four-game series with the Royals. New York has won 10 of its past 12 games, while Kansas City has dropped two in a row.

Even with his team facing Seth Lugo, whose nine wins ranked second in the majors through the weekend, New York manager Aaron Boone rested Judge on Monday.

“Just a night off,” said Boone, who confirmed Judge would return to the lineup on Tuesday. “I’ve kind of been marking this one down. He’s playing out of this world, but (he’s) played every day, and a little bit beat up, too, so it’s important.”

Judge leads the majors in homers (24), on-base percentage (.436) and slugging percentage (.703). He has three homers in his past two games, and he is batting .533 (16-for-30) in his past nine games.

Meanwhile, Soto returned to action after missing the prior three games due to left forearm inflammation.

“I did my treatment earlier today and went to the cages,” Soto said postgame. “It felt pretty good to take some hacks. We’ll see how I wake up (Tuesday).”

As the Yankees’ designated hitter for the first time, Soto singled and scored a first-inning run before finishing 1-for-3 with a walk. Boone expects to get him back to right field duty soon.

“(It’s) based on how he’s coming in each day, how the improvements are and how he’s feeling,” Boone said.

New York first baseman Anthony Rizzo, mired in a 1-for-29 June slump, was held out of the lineup for the second day in a row. He hasn’t had an RBI since May 25. DJ LeMahieu started at first base on Monday and collected his first RBI of the season in his 11th game.

The Yankees also were without closer Clay Holmes, who pitched in three of the previous four games. Boone turned to Michael Tonkin to close out Monday’s win for his first save of the year.

“We were playing a little bit short tonight,” Boone said. “It allowed other people to step up, and they did.”

Regarding the use of Tonkin in the ninth inning, the manager said, “(Tonkin) likes the fire. He likes the competition.”

New York’s Marcus Stroman (5-2, 3.04 ERA) and Kansas City’s Brady Singer (4-2, 2.76) are set to take the mound on Tuesday in a matchup of right-handers.

In five career starts against the Royals, Stroman is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA, though he has not face Kansas City since 2019. Among current Royals hitters, only Adam Frazier has more than one hit against Stroman, with five singles in 13 at-bats.

In his most recent outing, a start against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, Stroman allowed a season-high five runs on six hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision. However, he is 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA over his past five starts.

Singer is 0-1 with a 3.98 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees. Most recently, he allowed two runs on five hits and a walk with nine strikeouts in six innings against New York on July 22, 2023.

Over his past seven starts, Singer allowed more than two earned runs just once. He is 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA in that span.

On Thursday at Cleveland, Singer allowed three runs — two earned — on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the year.

“They made him work,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “They made a lot of contact. There were balls that got through. Luckily for us, with a well-rested bullpen, (we did not have to) overtax him and make him go through that lineup again.”

Kansas City shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. enters play Tuesday with an 11-game hitting streak, his best of the season. He is batting .388 (19-for-49) in that span.

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