Aaron Judge was 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts in this AL Division Series when he came up with two men on in the second inning of the Yankees’ 7-3 victory in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
The night before, Judge contributed big-time to the Yankees’ 1-0 Game 3 win when he scaled the rightfield wall to rob Francisco Lindor of a two-run home run.
But Judge isn’t known for his defense, even though it’s excellent. He’s known for mashing the baseball.
In the first inning, Judge struck out against Trevor Bauer on a high 97-mile per hour fastball on 3-and-2.
The Yankees were already up 2-0 when Judge came to the plate in the second with that .000 series batting average looking down at him from the centerfield scoreboard.
Judge got his first hit of the ALDS when he took another 3-and-2 fastball from Bauer — this one at 99-mph — and absolutely crushed it. It wasn’t one of Judge’s signature home runs, but it one-hopped the leftfield wall for a two-run double to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
“That was huge,” said an unusually subdued Judge, who finished 1-for-5 with four strikeouts. “Especially having Bauer on the ropes right there. You’ve got to knock in those runs and get him out of the game. We were able to get that done and get to the bullpen.”
Said manager Joe Girardi: “That is a huge hit. It’s a big hit. There’s a big difference between two and four. It allowed [Luis Severino] to relax a little bit.”
Judge, who also struck out four times in Game 1, is 1-for-15 (.067) with 12 strikeouts and four walks in the series after going 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs in the wild-card game.
“Just had to grind it out,” Judge said. “The team needed a couple of runs and I just tried to stick in there. Just fought off some tough pitches and finally got a fastball up and in and was able to put it in play.”
With Game 5 to go on Wednesday in Cleveland, Judge already has set the Yankees record for strikeouts in a postseason series. Alfonso Soriano had 11 in the 2003 ALCS. He’s one strikeout away from the ALDS record of 13 set by Austin Jackson (2013 Tigers) and Brandon Moss (2013 A’s).
“Not getting those mistakes,” Judge said. “When they throw it over the middle of the plate, I’ve got to do some damage. I haven’t been able to do that. It’s been a grind, you know? If we keep winning, that’s the most important thing.”
The Yankees got contributions from up and down the lineup and also from the Indians, who made three errors in the first five innings to help the Yankees to six unearned runs.
Every Yankee in Girardi’s tweaked lineup reached base by hit or walk except for Chase Headley, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Yankees DHs’ (Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury) are a combined 0-for-18 in the postseason.
Girardi’s lineup had Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez switch places, with Gregorius moving to third and Sanchez fourth. Greg Bird switched spots with Starlin Castro. Bird was fifth with Castro sixth.