It wasn’t just the fact that Aaron Judge homered that had Joe Girardi encouraged. It was where the home run landed.
Stepping in against Mets righthander Rafael Montero for the third time Monday night, Judge led off the sixth inning by punching a 1-and-0 fastball over the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center for his 36th homer, tying the score at 2-2 in the Yankees’ 4-2 win. It was only his sixth homer since the All-Star break.
“That tells you mechanically he’s more sound,’’ Girardi said. “When we’ve looked at him, yeah, he’s pulled some home runs, but we’ve seen a number of them to rightfield and centerfield. He’s made some adjustments and feels a little more comfortable in the box.”
Girardi likes what he’s seeing mechanically from Judge. “It’s better balance, it’s being on time,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of things that go on, especially with a guy that’s 6-7.”
Judge went 1-for-3, striking out twice and walking once. He fanned in the first, running his streak to 31 straight games with a strikeout, one shy of the major-league record set by Adam Dunn, and walked in the fourth. After Aaron Hicks’ 12th homer made it 3-2 in the eighth, Judge struck out again, giving him 53 strikeouts in 107 at-bats in the 31-game streak. He does have 28 walks in that span.
“I’ve been feeling good, real good,” he said. “I’m seeing the ball well and I have to keep swinging at the right pitches. They’ve been pitching me tough on the corners. When I get a pitch over the plate, I can’t miss it.”
Judge has been missing those pitches much of the second half. He entered Monday night with a .165/.333/.330 slash line since the All-Star break. “It’s about the process,” he said. “If I feel good and I’m swinging at the right pitches, I’m happy with it. Everyone would like results, you’d like to go 4-for-4, but in this crazy game we play, you may go 4-for-4 but have four terrible swings, and you might go 0-for-4 and have four great swings. So for me it’s just all about the process, keep working every day and keep battling.”
Judge, Hicks and Gary Sanchez each hit his 40th career homer. Sanchez became the third-fastest player to reach 40 career homers, in his 139th game, behind Mark McGwire (110th) and Rudy York (129th). Fourth behind Sanchez? Judge, who did it in his 140th game.
“It feels good to be a part of that,” Sanchez said through his translator. “To be able to do that with him [Judge] feels good.”
Said Judge: “It’s been incredible. Watching him develop, not only as a hitter but as a catcher, it’s fun to watch. He’s going to be one of the greatest catchers in the game and we’re seeing the beginning of it.”
Judge nearly put forth a nomination for catch of the year when he almost robbed Yoenis Cespedes of a homer in the third. He charged back and jumped at the wall of the Yankees’ bullpen, but the ball glanced off his glove and went over the fence. “I had a pretty good shot at it,” he said. “Wish I would have made that play. Would have been nice.”