After returning to the lineup from a broken wrist on Sept. 18, Aaron Judge was able to get 51 plate appearances going into Wednesday night’s AL Wild Card Game against the A’s at Yankee Stadium.
Was it enough?
It’s going to have to be.
“I wouldn’t have been playing if it was a couple of weeks ago,” Judge said. “I wasn’t ready. Everything feels great, so I’m good.”
In those 51 plate appearances, Judge hit .220 with one home run and six RBIs. The home run came on Friday at Fenway Park, where the Yankees will be on Thursday for a pre-ALDS workout if they beat Oakland.
Or they could be on their way home for a long offseason after making it to within one game of the World Series last season.
“Anything can happen,” Judge said of the win-or-go-home wild-card format. “Don’t be fazed by it. Just play your game.”
Judge wasn’t completely healthy last postseason, either. He was struggling with a shoulder injury that he wouldn’t publicly acknowledge and underwent offseason surgery.
Judge hit a homer in last year’s wild-card win over the Twins and hit .188 with four home runs, 11 RBIs and 27 strikeouts in 48 postseason at-bats.
Remember, Judge was a rookie sensation last season. This year, he has settled in as one of the faces of baseball and of the Yankees. He always says the right thing and his teammates appreciate how much the 26-year-old accepts his outsized role on the team and in the sport at such a young age.
“He knows what’s at stake playing here,” Giancarlo Stanton said. “He knows how you need to step up and be kind of the light that people look toward.”
Judge’s right wrist was fractured by a pitch from Royals righthander Jakob Junis on July 26. The Yankees initially, and erroneously, said he would be able to swing a bat within three weeks. It took much longer. But he’s back and ready for the parade of pitchers he’ll face on Wednesday, since the A’s are using reliever Liam Hendricks as their opener.
“They’re probably going with their whole bullpen,” Judge said. “Just matchup, matchup, matchup after matchup. So you’ve just got to watch your video on everybody to be prepared on everybody. So that’s kind of my mindset. I did their whole pitching staff.”
Judge said the Yankees’ experience this season facing Tampa Bay — the inventors of the opener, for better or worse — should help them prepare.
“We’ve been doing it all year against Tampa,” he said. “It’s nothing new. It’ll help us out a little bit. Having that experience already is going to help a lot of these guys out.”