Aaron Judge’s absence from the Yankees' lineup was an obvious talking point but ultimately proved to be not much cause for concern.
Judge, who returned Friday after being placed on the injured list on April 21 with an oblique injury, watched the Yankees go 37-17 while he recovered, as the combination of Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin and, at times, Mike Tauchman produced at acceptable levels.
The return has not lived up to the excitement. Judge went hitless with three strikeouts through his first seven plate appearances, going 0-for-4 Friday as the leadoff hitter and 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored through six innings as the No. 2 batter against the Astros on Saturday night.
He scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s bases-loaded single that got past third baseman Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead. In the previous half-inning, Judge threw a strike from the rightfield wall to Didi Gregorius at second base, nabbing Max Stassi as he tried to stretch a single into a double and ending the inning.
After Friday night’s 4-1 win over the Astros — the team’s seventh win in a row — Judge said he “feels great” and that it’s as if he “didn’t skip a beat.”
“It felt like it was April 21,” he said.
At the time of his injury, the Yankees had an All-Star cast on the injured list. He joined 11 others — most notably, Gregorius, Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances — giving the Yankees a makeshift lineup.
“When guys get injured, people are going to step up,” Judge said. “People are confident in their abilities and what they can do, and everyone’s just trusting each other to go out there and do their jobs.”
Frazier excelled in a nearly full-time role (although he also spent a short stint on the injured list), though he was optioned back to Triple-A to clear a spot for the newly acquired Edwin Encarnacion on Tuesday.
Tauchman has bounced between Triple-A and the majors after he was acquired from the Rockies at the end of spring training. Gardner was steady — if unspectacular — as a near-regular.
Maybin, acquired from the Indians for cash on April 25, hit well before injuring his left calf Friday night. Now he’s expected to be placed on the IL and will be “out a pretty fair amount of time,” according to manager Aaron Boone.
The Yankees’ outfield Saturday night, from left to right, was more of what the team envisioned entering the season. Stanton, Hicks and Judge each did his part defensively.
Stanton made a leaping catch at the leftfield wall to rob Gurriel in the sixth inning, Hicks made a sliding grab to steal a hit from Jose Altuve in the seventh, and Judge’s throw retired Stassi.