The blast went high enough to bring rain, and it certainly stopped the dry spell. Aaron Judge’s two-run homer in the sixth inning of the Yankees’ 9-2 rout of the Red Sox on Sunday night at the Stadium ended the slugger’s longest homer drought of the season.
After striking out twice against Chris Sale and grounding into a forceout against Joe Kelly, Judge faced former Met Addison Reed. Three runs had just scored on Starlin Castro’s double to make the score 7-1. Then Judge unloaded on a 1-and-1 pitch.
The roar from the sellout crowd grew as the ball sailed into the night sky, then crescendoed as it landed in the seats beyond the wall in left-centerfield. The blast came off his bat at 115 mph, traveled 469 feet and peaked at 82 feet in the air, according to Statcast.
“It’s a good sign,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’ve been saying that his at-bats have been getting better.”
In his miserable second half, Judge hadn’t hit a home run in 15 straight games dating to an Aug. 16 blast against the Mets — a 457-foot shot into the third deck at Citi Field.
The 6-7, 282-pound Judge emerged as the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year honors with a sensational first half that ended with him batting .329 with 30 home runs and 66 RBIs in 84 games. He capped it by finishing with more All-Star votes than any other American League player and winning the Home Run Derby.
Judge hasn’t been nearly as successful since. He has continued to reach base by drawing walks but has been mired in a terrible slump. Entering play yesterday, he had hit .176 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 46 games in the second half, striking out 70 times in 159 at-bats. In the 15-game homerless period, he had a .157/.317/.216 slash line with three RBIs.
Judge often has worn a post-game wrap on his left shoulder — a cortisone injection even was considered — but he and Girardi have insisted that it isn’t the reason for the drop in production. Girardi has attempted to shake him from the slump with the occasional day off, even giving him two straight a week ago.
In the series opener with Boston, Judge was dropped to sixth in the batting order. He hit in the five-hole Sunday night and didn’t exactly look inspiring before the homer. Sale struck him out swinging in the first inning with two runners in scoring position. Then he caught him looking in the third.
“Sometimes it’s hard to evaluate [at-bats] when they’re against the Chris Sales and Corey Klubers,” Girardi said, “but they’ve been better.”
Girardi also has been optimistic that Matt Holliday’s return three days ago from a second trip to the disabled list will help get Judge going again. Holliday has been a mentor to Judge since spring training, and Judge’s struggles began around the same time Holliday first went on the DL.