OAKLAND, Calif. – Aaron Judge hit a home run Tuesday night that looked right out of his historic 2017 rookie season, a monstrous blast that traveled an estimated 467 feet.
It was just Judge’s 13th homer of this season and his first since Aug. 4.
And it was notable not so much because of the distance but because of the homer’s landing spot: left-center field, the first time this season the slugger pulled a homer.
“Direction doesn’t matter,” Judge said afterward. “As long as it goes over the fence and adds runs, I’m happy with it, left or right or center. Just glad to get one.”
It is, of course, far too soon to affix meaning to the home run, such as whether it will be the spark that contributes to breaking Judge out of what has been a prolonged slump.
In 50 games – entering Wednesday night – since returning from the injured list June 21 from a left oblique strain, Judge is hitting .255/.377/.440 with eight homers, 10 doubles, 23 RBIs and an OPS of 817. Not outright terrible numbers overall but the last three weeks they have been.
In Judge’s last 24 games going into Wednesday, he was hitting .183/.290/.312 with two homers, six doubles, six RBIs and an OPS of .602.
The slump – and the lack of pulled baseballs hit by Judge during it – has brought renewed speculation about whether the 27-year-old is completely healed from the oblique injury and if he’s perhaps trying to protect it while at the plate.
He and the Yankees have continued to insist that is not the case.
“I’ve felt good, I’ve felt good for a couple of months now,” Judge said “The hits just aren’t falling, that’s about it. So just keep having quality at-bats and I just have to get on base for Gio (Urshela) and all those guys behind me. They make my job simple.”
Judge, who missed roughly two months (54 games in total) with the injury, came into Wednesday hitting .265 with an .848 OPS in 70 games this season.
“It was good to see him really destroy one there,” Aaron Boone said late Tuesday night. “I even thought the last couple of days have been better days at the plate where he’s gotten some results and hit some balls on the screws. I was encouraged even in his first at-bat (Tuesday) where he struck out, I thought he got some really good swings off where he was completing his move. To really get into one like he did is good to see, and hopefully he continues to build that momentum.”
Boone, who when asked about it has said dropping Judge in the order isn’t a consideration, picked up on the same theme before Wednesday night’s game against the A’s, a game in which Judge again started in right and batted second.
“I’m excited to see him get, the last few days, I feel like he’s been getting some results,” Boone said. “I talked about last night in his first at-bat where I thought he was able to get off some really good swings. Even though he ends up striking out, I felt like, man, he was on time making his move, making good swing decisions. For me, that’s what it’s about for AJ. If he’s on time and making good swing decisions, the results will be there because he’s great. The more momentum he can get building and start to feel really locked and comfortable, then he’ll take off.”