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Aaron Judge homers in return to Yankees' lineup against Orioles, 2 days after being hit by a pitch

NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Judge hit his major league-leading 27th homer in his return to the New York Yankees’ lineup Thursday against the Baltimore Orioles, two days after being hit on the left hand by a pitch.

Judge hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and added an RBI single, but the Yankees lost 17-5 and saw their lead over Baltimore in the AL East sliced to a half-game. Judge started in center field and played seven innings before being lifted.

“It felt good,” Judge said. “There’s still some swelling, some soreness and stuff like that, especially on foul balls, but if you square it up, it feels pretty good.”

Judge sat out Wednesday as the Yankees lost 7-6 in 10 innings.

“Kind of went through his treatment today and then went down and hit in the cage and then just kind of came by my office and gave it a thumbs up,” manager Aaron Boone said before the Yankees lost for the fifth time in seven games “So here we go.”

Judge was struck by a 94.1 mph fastball from Baltimore starter Albert Suárez during New York’s 4-2 win Tuesday night. The slugger left the game an inning later. X-rays and a CT scan were negative, though Boone said the slugger had some swelling and discomfort.

“Playing a division rival, a must-win game to try to clinch the series,” Judge said. "So we got to be out there.”

Judge is batting .306 and also leads the majors with 67 RBIs. The 32-year-old outfielder is a five-time All-Star and was the 2022 AL MVP after hitting 62 home runs to break the AL record of 61 by Roger Maris set in 1961.

In 2018, Judge missed 45 games with a broken right wrist after he was hit by a 93.4 mph pitch from Kansas City’s Jakob Junis.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB

Larry Fleisher, The Associated Press