/Aaron Judge’s diving catch in center a key play in Yankees’ win

Aaron Judge’s diving catch in center a key play in Yankees’ win

The Yankees might not be officially calling Aaron Judge their new starting center fielder, but their lineups are indicating that is the case.

And Judge seems to be taking to it just fine.

Starting a sixth straight game in center field on Friday night, Judge saved at least one run with a diving catch on an Ian Happ line drive in the gap to end the third inning in what became a 2-1, 13-inning win over the Cubs in The Bronx.

“Great play,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Seeing him out of my periphery, trying to grade out if he’s going to be able to get there, I’m like, ‘I think he’s got a chance.’ ”

Judge started in center just 13 times through the Yankees’ first 44 games this season, but the MVP candidate has now been their center fielder in 11 of the last 14 games.

“I think he’s probably surpassed my expectations there,” Boone said.

Aaron Judge robs Ian Happ of a hit to end the third inning of the Yankees' 2-1, 13-inning win over the Cubs.
Aaron Judge robs Ian Happ of a hit to end the third inning of the Yankees’ 2-1, 13-inning win over the Cubs.
Robert Sabo

Still, Boone was noncommittal when asked if Judge would continue to start in center more often than not.

“We’ll see,” Boone said. “He’s certainly done a great job out there for us. So just kind of day-by-day, week-by-week and whatever makes the most sense. The roster has some ebbs and flows to it, with an injury here and there. I love the flexibility it certainly gives us.”

With Judge taking over in center, Joey Gallo (who didn’t start Friday because the Cubs had lefty Wade Miley on the mound) has moved from left field to right field, where he has said he is more comfortable, with Aaron Hicks shifting from center to left.

After a mostly brutal first two months of the season for Gallo and rough May for Hicks, both outfielders started June on a much better note.

Before both went hitless Friday, Gallo was batting .320 with three home runs and a 1.113 OPS over his previous seven games while Hicks was hitting .407 with a 1.019 OPS over his past eight games.

Hicks, who went 0-for-5 with a hard lineout against the Cubs, had recorded three straight multi-hit games, the same amount he had during the entire month of May in which he hit .127 with a .394 OPS across 24 games.

“He’s worked really hard as he’s grinded through this and obviously struggled a lot there in the previous month,” Boone said. “I feel like he’s just getting on time a little bit better. Getting that foot down and in position to hit earlier and on time. As a result, he’s starting to make some better swing decisions.”

Gallo homered twice in Thursday’s win over the Twins, didn’t start Friday, but entered as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning, went 0-for-2 and scored the winning run as the ghost-runner in the 13th inning.

The Cubs placed former Mets right-hander Marcus Stroman on the injured list Friday with right shoulder inflammation. The Long Island native last pitched on June 3, giving up nine earned runs in four innings against St. Louis.

Stroman, who signed a three-year, $71 million deal with the Cubs last offseason, owns a 5.32 ERA in nine starts.