The New York Yankees can overcome a 1-0 deficit and beat a mighty Cleveland Indians team to make it to the American League Championship Series if Aaron Judge’s bat stays silent.
Some offense from Judge wouldn’t go amiss, though—especially if the Yankees starting pitching continues to be as bad as it has been through the wild-card game and Game 1 against the Indians.
The Yankees got terrible pitching from Luis Severino in the wild-card win over the Minnesota Twins Wednesday; the 23-year-old ace was pulled after one out of the first inning. But the bullpen did a cleanup job, and the offense, led by Didi Gregorius and backed up by Judge, hammered and clawed them out of a hole.
On Thursday the Yankees got bad pitching from Sonny Gray, acquired in July from the Oakland A’s before the trade deadline. In three-and-one-third innings, Gray gave up three runs. “Jay Bruce is the guy that really hurt him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told the New York Post. “Besides that, he pitched pretty well.” Bruce, the former New York Met, struck a two-run home run and drove in three of the Indians’ four runs on the night.
Girardi got a bad Judge, too—not the one who lit up the early season and September, but the guy who struck out so many times in the lean summer months. Against the Twins, Judge struck a memorable line-drive home run, on a good night all around for the Yankees in the Bronx. Against the Indians, he struck out four times in four at-bats—three to the starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, and once to closer Cody Allen.
"That's the beauty of baseball,” Judge told NJ.com after the game when asked if he could forget his bad night. “You get to go out there again and do it tomorrow. So if we go out there and win, we can forget about today. It's just about learning from today, regroup and get them tomorrow."
The same website also reported Judge had an ice pack on his knee during the interview.
"I thought he had some good swings tonight and he'll be back tomorrow," Girardi said, echoing his star rookie. The difference is Judge and the Yankees have to face the Indians’ ace, Corey Kluber, on Friday. Hitting won’t get easier, at least until Game 3.
They can get offense from elsewhere, of course. Maybe Gary Sanchez can fill the hole if Judge keeps striking out, or Todd Frazier, or Greg Bird, or the phenomenally consistent Gregorius. It’s difficult to shake the feeling, though, that when Judge goes cold, so do the Yankees.
Girardi could do with some fire from his baby behemoth in Ohio on Friday night.
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