Judge gets back to making contact

In earning American League Player of the Week honors each of the past two weeks, catcher Gary Sanchez has made it seem easy to break into the major leagues. Conversely, outfielder Aaron Judge has been an example of how tough it can be for a player to make the leap from minors to majors.

Judge got off to an impressive start with a monster home run off to center field at Yankee Stadium in his first major-league at-bat and home runs in each of his first two games. But the going got rough after that.

Entering play Tuesday night at Kansas City, Mo., Judge was in stretches of 4-for-30 (.133) and 2-for-25 (.080). He had struck out 22 times in 46 at-bats, at least once in 14 of his 15 games for the Yankees and had multiple strikeouts in seven games.

With a player who stands 6-foot-7, the strike zone is much larger than most players. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has displayed patience by playing Judge regularly and near the bottom of the lineup to relieve pressure.

The Yankees can live with the strikeouts if Judge does what he did Tuesday night by clocking a two-run home run in the second inning off Edinson Volquez to provide Mashiro Tanaka an early lead.

With a single in the third inning, Didi Gregorius extended his hitting streak to 11 games, the longest for the Yankees this year. Brian McCann had hit in 10 straight twice. Before the rain delay, left fielder Brett Gardner came to Tanaka’s rescue with two terrific plays. He made an accurate throw to second base to cut down Alcides Escobar trying for a double and followed that with a leaping catch at the wall of a drive by Christian Colon.

Congratulations to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Ben Gamel, who was named the 2016 International League Player of the Year. Gamel, 24, has a slash line of .309/.366/.422 with 78 runs, 26 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 51 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 115 games and 479 at-bats for the RailRiders. Gamel leads the IL in runs and ranks third in hits, fifth in steals and sixth in batting average. Gamel was one of four RailRiders to make the IL Postseason All-Star Team, along with Sanchez, Judge and second baseman Donovan Solano. Al Pedrique was named IL Manager of the Year for leading the RailRiders to an 84-52 (.618) record and a postseason berth.

The Yankees added two more prospects with the acquisition of outfielder Tito Polo and pitcher Stephen Tarpley, the players to be named that completed the Aug. 1 trade of pitcher Ivan Nova to the Pirates.

Polo, 22, hit .289 with 86 runs, 17 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs, 65 RBI, 37 stolen bases, a .360 on-base percentage and an .811 OPS (on-base plus slugging) in 109 games and 439 at-bats combined between two Class A teams, Bradenton (55 games) and West Virginia (54) this season and was selected as a South Atlantic League Midseason All-Star. Originally signed by Pittsburgh as a non-drafted free agent March 12, 2012, the right-handed hitter led all Pirates minor leaguers with 46 stolen bases in 2015. In 355 career minor league games and 1,249 at-bats, the San Andres Islas, Colombia, native has hit .271 with 223 runs, 55 doubles, 15 triples, 26 homers, 158 RBI, 130 stolen bases and a .352 on-base percentage.

Tarpley, 23, was 6-4 with a 4.32 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 100 innings in 20 starts with Bradenton. Over four minor league seasons, the lefthander has a 20-14 record with a 3.32 ERA and 280 strikeouts in 303 1/3 innings in 60 games (59 starts). Tapley was originally selected by the Orioles in the third round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and was acquired by the Pirates, along with left-handed pitcher Steven Brault, in exchange for outfielder Travis Snider Jan. 27, 2015.

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