The Yankees’ lineup for Sunday night’s series finale against the Mets contained a surprise: Aaron Judge was not in it.
Speculation immediately grew that Judge was injured. He hurt his left thumb on a slide in Friday’s series opener but stayed in the game. X-rays were negative, and he hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of Saturday night’s 4-3 Yankees win.
But thumbs can be tricky. So for about an hour — from the time the lineup was posted to the time manager Aaron Boone had his pregame news conference — Yankees fans held their collective breath.
Then they were able to exhale.
“Judgie’s good,” Boone said. “Obviously, was really relieved that he was good to go [Saturday]. Obviously, the big home run. I just decided after the game — I just felt like with the off day [Monday] that I just wanted to take the chance to give him a couple [days off]. He fought me a little bit on it, but he’ll be available if we need him. With the off day [Monday], we want to play the long game a little bit and give him one down.”
Sunday was the second game Judge has not started this season. On April 30 against Houston, he walked as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Astros.
With a man on first and one out in the eighth Sunday night, Judge pinch hit for Adam Warren and grounded to short on Robert Gsellman’s first pitch. Second baseman Jose Reyes did not touch second and threw wildly to first, picking up two errors on the play, but the Yankees could not take advantage in their 2-0 loss to the Mets.
Judge went into Sunday batting .271 with 18 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .965 OPS. Giancarlo Stanton started in rightfield against righthander Seth Lugo in the DH-less game.
Judge’s 18th home run on Saturday night gave the Yankees their first lead of the game and was the difference in their sixth straight victory over the Mets. Judge hit former Yankees teammate Anthony Swarzak’s first pitch of the eighth, a hanging slider, over the leftfield wall.
Swarzak was on the Yankees in 2016 when Judge made his debut. It’s amazing to think that Judge looked so overmatched in his first taste of big-league ball, hitting .179 with 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats. Now he’s one of the faces of baseball.
ESPN, which televised Sunday night’s game with Alex Rodriguez in the booth, probably wasn’t thrilled that Judge got the night off. Boone was A-Rod’s predecessor in the “Sunday Night Baseball” booth, but he no longer is interested in the TV side of the business. Boone wants to keep his players fresh for the 162-game grind.
“I’ve talked to you guys [reporters] about the urgency of the day,” Boone said. “But also always keeping the big picture and the long view in mind. I think rest — different period of rest — are important and play a big role in the success of a season and the longevity of that success within a season.”
Boone was asked if it’s easier to rest guys when his team is rolling. The Yankees went into Sunday with a 42-18 record.
“I’d like to think that I’d have that discipline even when we’re going through some tougher times,” he said. “But also understand that when you’re up against it and you’re scuffling, you’re leaning on your guys a little bit more.”