There is a good reason I’m not a manager in Major League Baseball. Leading up to Game 3 of the ALCS, I suggested the New York Yankees move Aaron Judge down from the No. 2 spot in the lineup after a miserable first seven games of his postseason.
Granted, those with the same train of thought as myself shouldn’t be ostracized for suggesting such a move.
He was invisible during the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, going 1-for-20 while striking out 16 times, an MLB record for most punchouts during a single playoff series.
It really didn’t look like he was going to break out of it in the ALCS against the Houston Astros either after the first two games. He went 1-for-7 with another three strikeouts while the Yankees could only muster a single run during each game in Houston to fall into an 0-2 hole.
Granted, the only thing Judge was seeing at the plate was a steady diet of offspeed pitches on the outer half of the plate that would tail away from the righty. It also didn’t help that he was encountering a brand-new strike zone that was extending down past his knees. For a player standing at 6-foot-7, there wasn’t a good chance that he was getting his bat on balls thrown that low.
But if there’s one thing that Judge has shown us, it’s that he can adjust at the plate, even if it takes a bit longer than expected or, for some Yankees fans, hoped for.
It looks as though he’s made the right adjustments as he’s come up big in Games 3 and 4.
The solution? Patience, but knowing when to attack the one pitch or mistake provided by the opposition in each at-bat.
We first saw it in Game 3 when Judge had the chance to put away a 5-0 game in the fourth inning with two runners on and two outs against Astros reliever Will Harris. Working the count to 2-2, Judge pounced on a ball left up and inside the zone — a pitch he is able to get his hands inside of — and crack a three-run laser of a home run to put things to bed:
Then came his lead-off at-bat in the seventh inning of Game 4. Just moments after the Astros took a 4-0 lead in the top half of the inning and with Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. cruising having allowed just one hit through six innings, Judge wasted no time breathing new life into Yankee Stadium as he attacked a hanging slider, the first pitch he saw, and sent it well over the center-field fence:
It sparked the Yankees comeback as they plated two in the seventh and one in the eighth before he came up again in the frame with one out against Houston closer Ken Giles. Realizing he was going to see plenty of the offspeed stuff outside the zone, Judge went down and belted a double off the top of the left-field wall to score Jacoby Ellsbury and tie the game. Gary Sanchez would provide the game-winning double two batters later to tie the series:
Now comes the test of facing Dallas Keuchel once again in Game 5 on Wednesday evening at Yankee Stadium. In Game 1, the Houston ace held Judge to a walk and single while striking him out once.