Joe Girardi opted to sit down Aaron Judge the next few games feeling that his struggles are attributed to playing a lot of games. The Yankees need Judge in the heart of their lineup and be the slugger he was the first half of this season of going beyond expectations.
So give the kid a break with his struggles. Judge will go through these moments in what is expected to be a career of home runs and run production for the Yankees. Perhaps the struggles are attributed to the home run derby syndrome that hurt the swing. But the Yankees will never say that Judge is struggling because of a home run contest.
But they need his bat in the lineup, and to be that run producer if they have any chance of bypassing the Red Sox and winning their division. They don’t want the wild card and who would in a one-game elimination.
Which brings up Monday night at Yankee Stadium and the first of three with the central division Cleveland Indians. Before those final four games of the season with Boston, that begin in the Bronx Thursday night, they failed without Judge in the lineup. And there was a good reason why, facing one of the best with the Indians’ Corey Kluber.
Kluber tossed 8.0 innings again, and the Yankees with three hits was all they could do. With Judge in the lineup it may not have mattered and perhaps this was the proper time for Girardi to sit down the slugger who once was on pace to a 60 home run season.
And one thing you can’t do when facing Kluber is come from behind.. Opposing batters have a .185 average against the righthander and the Yankees knew that coming in. Because this was his sixth start with at least 8.0 innings pitched, the Yankees know if Cleveland does become an eventual ALDS opponent the task would be difficult because Kluber is there.
Judge or not, Kluber is an ace. So is Luis Severino who did what he had to do for 6.1 innings. But Severino gave up that first inning home run to Jose Ramirez, his first of two on the night, and the Yankees had to come from behind in their 6-2 loss.
Judge wasn’t going to come off the bench. The intent is to maybe get him in for the finale Wednesday afternoon and hope he turns it around for that all important series with the Red Sox.
“I just want him just to take a mental day and a physical day and just rest,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t had many of those days and I think in the long run this is going to help us.” The reminder here, four weeks remain and Aaron Judge is a key component to the Yankees lineup whether he is batting third, cleanup, or fifth.
This is not to say the Yankees will fail without the potent bat of Aaron Judge. They need to pitch and also get production from the rest of the lineup. They weren’t able to do much against Kluber and Tuesday night in the Bronx ,Trevor Bauer, 13-8, who seems to pitch his best down the stretch, is on the mound.
Kluber struck out seven and owns that ERA of 1.90 in 17 starts going back to June 1, and that’s two runs or fewer in 13 of his starts.
“They have a good team,” Severino said. They’ve got good players. Ramirez s a good hitter.” He hit two 98-mile fastballs off Severino and that’s not easy to do. But Kluber has Cy Young stuff working this time of year and the Indians seem to be on that roll again to another central division title.
As for Judge, batting .179 with 7 home runs, 16 RBI and 65 strikeouts since the all-star break, well it was time for Girardi to give him a break. The average went from .329 to .280 and there was that record to forget, 37 consecutive games with a strikeout.
Missing pitches that were hit in the first half or the league catching up to Aaron Judge, one will never know the reason, but sitting down a few games will not hurt. More so, the Yankees are more hurt when they are not consistent at the plate, though there was every good reason to struggle Monday night because this was Corey Kluber with a fastball and the secondary pitches going where they had to be.
Severino wasn’t that bad. But the fastball was hit and three home run balls were the culprit. And if the Yankees want to catch the Red Sox they need Judge to be productive. Girardi made the right move and at the proper time. There is still time for Aaron Judge to become the hitter he was in the first half.
But for now they have to figure out how to live without Aaron Judge for another game. One threat in the lineup who is locked in can make the difference.