HOUSTON — After what the Yankees just accomplished the last week, a natural follow-up emerges:
What can they accomplish when Aaron Judge isn’t striking out two out of every three times he goes to the plate?
Sure, Judge made a catch to rob Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, and his one hit in the series, a two-run double in Game 4, proved vital. When you tally the pros and cons, however, the Yankees upended the top-seeded Indians more despite their stud rookie’s contributions than because of them.
And it’s unlikely they can defeat the Astros in this AL Championship Series, set to start Friday night at Minute Maid Park, in similar fashion.
“He is getting pitched tough and gets frustrated when he doesn’t get good pitches to hit.” Yankees hitting coach Alan Cockrell said of Judge on Thursday, after the team worked out. “It just kind of becomes a mental thing. Mechanically, I think he is OK.
“He has got to be ready to hit. He is going to get breaking balls, and he is going to get pitched hard in and soft away. When he gets a pitch to hit, he has to be in a good position and not miss it, especially this time of year.’’
“I’m just missing the mistakes,” said Judge, who hid any frustrations he felt. “That’s been the biggest thing for me. They’re making a lot of pitches. They’re nibbling at the edge. Then, when they do make a mistake over the plate, I’m not capitalizing on it. That’s the biggest thing I’m seeing right now.”
If you see Judge’s statistics from the previous round, you’ll notice that he struck out a staggering 16 times in 24 plate appearances. In Games 1, 4 and 5, he earned the dreaded “Golden Sombrero” with four whiffs apiece.
“I thought they just made a ton of good pitches on him,” Joe Girardi said. “I think there were some borderline calls that didn’t go his way that could have been walks, and maybe it looks a little bit different.”
Maybe. Judge drew four walks in the series, and he expressed satisfaction he was working the count, though the high majority of those worked counts wound up with him back in his own dugout.
“It’s baseball. I don’t think anyone goes through the season and has a perfect season,” Judge said. “So just keep playing the game, keep having fun. We’ve got a great team. As long as I contribute any way I can.”
Maybe the Yankees can advance to the World Series getting as little from Judge this round as they did last round. They definitely don’t want to test that theory.
— with George A. King III