Just after DJ LeMahieu opened the game with a hard-hit single to right field, New York Yankees‘ outfielder Aaron Judge was in the batters’ box. He had a good season (.257/.336/.554 and a .891 OPS with nine home runs) but couldn’t stay in the field for more than 28 games.
He was cruising along until a calf issue derailed his season. He returned, aggravated the issue and had to miss almost twice as much time. When he got back to the New York Yankees’ active roster, he struggled to produce as he shook the rust associated with missing so many games.
Anyway, back to yesterday’s game. Right after LeMahieu singled to start the game against virtual Cy Young lock and possible MVP Shane Bieber, Judge deposited one of the righty’s pitches into the right-center field stands for an improbable two-run home run. The Yankees were up 2-0.
â€œItâ€™s a special feeling, especially against a guy that is most likely going to win the Cy Young [Award] this year,â€ Judge said to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. â€œI knew that DJ was going to get on for me, and if I got a mistake, donâ€™t miss it. I just wanted to set the tone for what weâ€™re going to do this postseason.â€
The Yankees attacked early with a left jab and a right hook
Gerrit Cole, who won the game by virtue of pitching seven frames of two-run baseball with 13 strikeouts, described the sequence as a “left jab and a right hook,” putting it in boxing terms. The Yankees had struck first.
Bieber, as unlikely as it sounds, battled with command and made some mistakes, which the Yankees made a point in crushing.
â€œWe had a long hittersâ€™ meeting about sticking to the same plan, trying to work long counts,â€ Judge said. â€œThatâ€™s when this team is dangerous, when we go out there and grind out at-bats. Any mistakes that are thrown up there, we hammer them.â€
Gleyber Torres, Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton also left the yard but Judge showed them the way.