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Three more strikeouts for Aaron Judge, but he remains optimistic

Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge reacts after striking out

Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge reacts after striking out in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

There were two sets each of early batting practice and hitting in the cage. There was a long video session to examine changes in the swing. And then there were all the regular drills and a pair of games.

Aaron Judge spent the weekend trying to fix the Yankees’ biggest issue right now: his second-half slump.

There’s going to be more work to do.

Judge finished 1-for-4 with a walk, three strikeouts and a stolen base in Sunday night’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to Boston at the Stadium. He faced Red Sox ace Chris Sale three times, drawing a walk and whiffing twice. He singled to the opposite field against setup man Matt Barnes and struck out in the 10th against Boston closer Craig Kimbrel.

“In my first at-bat, I got a walk off Sale. The next two at-bats he struck me out, but he throws two [different] sliders on the corner, he paints a fastball in, he throws a fastball up,” Judge said. “You’re battling and it’s grinding, but I feel good at the plate.”

Judge’s singular first-half performance was the engine that drove the club. He hit .329 with 30 home runs and 66 RBIs in 84 games as the Yankees averaged 5.5 runs per game. Since the All-Star break, he’s hit .165 with five homers and 12 RBIs in 28 games and the team has averaged 4.0 runs per game.

Manager Joe Girardi said the club believes there are small mechanical issues that include “his front side being a little quick.” After describing the work the 25-year-old is putting in, he added, “He’s trying to get it and will get it.”

Judge has taken a called third strike 17 times, and Girardi said, “What it tells you is he’s not seeing the ball as well as before.”

Both a change in his spot in the batting order or a day or two off are moves that have been considered.

Judge has drawn 25 walks and hit the five home runs since the break, but much of the rest has been hard to watch. The player who seemed to always put the barrel of the bat on the ball has 46 strikeouts in 97 at-bats since the break and at least one in 30 straight games (51 strikeouts in 104 at-bats in that span).

Adam Dunn holds the record for position players with 32 consecutive games with a strikeout.

One thing that changed from the first half to the second is expectations. As spring training ended, it wasn’t even a certainty that Judge would make the team coming out of camp. By the end of the first week of July, he was a front-runner for American League MVP honors and the American League’s leading All-Star vote-getter. At the Midsummer Classic in Miami, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Judge is “the kind of player that can become the face of the game.”

Said Girardi, “I don’t think it’s the pressure. You can look at a lot of different things that have happened this season. I moved him from seventh to sixth, sixth to fifth, fifth to third, and he handled everything. He handled the All-Star lights well. So I don’t necessarily think it’s the pressure.”

Judge believes the extra work is helping.

“I have to keep grinding and working. You know the results will come,” he said. “If I feel good in the box and feel ready to compete, good things will happen.”

New York Sports