It was the only kind of news capable of overshadowing a Yankees-Red Sox game, especially one started by Gerrit Cole.
Aaron Judge, IL-bound.
The rightfielder, off to a terrific start, was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain late Friday afternoon shortly before the Yankees opened a four-game series against the struggling Red Sox with a 10-3 victory at the Stadium.
Cole, who allowed one run in seven innings, has won his last 20 decisions (in a span of 27 games) and has a 1.94 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 13.30 K/9 ratio in that span. He is 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA in five starts as a Yankee.
“Best pitcher in the game,’’ Aaron Boone said of the streak, “and that’s what you’re seeing.”
Cole, featuring a particularly nasty slider, allowed four hits, including a home run into the second deck in rightfield by Alex Verdugo. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter.
“I thought we were in a good place early,’’ Cole said. “I thought Gary [Sanchez] was on top of his game, too.”
Mike Tauchman had three hits and four RBIs, Gleyber Torres had four hits (including a two-run double) and Sanchez hit a 457-foot two-run homer well up into the bleachers beyond the Red Sox bullpen for the Yankees (13-6). But that was overshadowed by the Judge news.
“Hopefully it is a mild situation,” Boone said.
The word Boone used early and often in discussing Judge — “hopefully” — has surrounded him far too often in recent years.
Judge — whose nine home runs led the major leagues and whose 20 RBIs were tied for the MLB lead entering Friday — has shown himself to be one of the best all-around players in the sport since his electric rookie season of 2017. He hit 52 home runs, drove in 114 runs, ran away with American League Rookie of the Year honors and finished second in the MVP voting.
He appeared in 155 games that season, but 2017 was the last year he succeeded in consistently staying on the field.
In 2018, a right wrist fracture — a fluke injury, as it came on a hit by pitch — helped limit him to 112 games. Last season, an oblique strain was the primary reason he appeared in only 102 games.
Judge’s IL stint will be backdated to Aug. 12. “He’s champing at the bit,” Boone said. “He did not want to go on the IL.”
Boone said this decision was made to “make sure we protect him and make sure we have him for the long haul” rather than taking the chance of bringing back Judge too quickly and having the injury turn into something more serious.
“I think it’s really important that he not go out there and hurt this thing significantly trying to play through something,” Boone said. “Hopefully it should be a pretty short stint on the IL.”
Boone pinch hit for Judge in the sixth inning Tuesday night and said afterward it was only a matter of getting him off his feet in a blowout (the Yankees led the Braves by five runs at the time).
But a day later, Boone said he and a couple of coaches noticed Judge moving a bit gingerly during Tuesday’s game, the result, Boone surmised, of playing four games in three days on the unforgiving Tropicana Field turf against the Rays. On Thursday, the MRI revealed the strain.
“It comes down to the calf can be tricky is exactly the answer,” Boone said of the uncertainty.
Uncertainty with a Judge injury no doubt sounds familiar to Yankees fans. In February, Judge arrived in Tampa a couple of weeks early for spring training, only to see him shut down just as camp officially began because of soreness in his chest and shoulder area. On March 6, he was diagnosed with a right rib fracture and collapsed lung, injuries he and the Yankees traced to a diving attempt at a fly ball in a September 2019 game.
The outfielder used the nearly four-month hiatus caused by COVID-19 to get completely healthy, and nearly three weeks into the season, the results could not have been much better.
“This is something that maybe in a couple days he’ll be ready to push through,” said Boone, who already had lost another of his sluggers, Giancarlo Stanton, for at least the next three weeks because of a left hamstring strain. “But I also think when you’re talking about calves, when you’re talking about a hamstring, it’s a situation where you know you could tweak it more and then all of a sudden we’re looking at a four-to-six-weeks [out] situation. That’s really what we’re trying to avoid here.
“Hopefully we’ve gotten a little bit ahead of this thing. Hopefully it is a mild situation, and Aaron will be back on the field.”