aaron judge getty 22

NEW YORK — No player in baseball had a better regular season than Aaron Judge, and through two games, no player in the American League has had a worse postseason than Judge. The 62-homer man went 0 for 5 in New York’s Game 2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians, and is 0 for 8 with seven strikeouts in the series. Judge even heard boos after his fourth strikeout.

“It’s the Bronx, man,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said about the boos after Game 2.

Judge missed with eight of his 13 swings in Game 2, and astronomical rate, and Game 2 was his first four-strikeout game since last June. It was his fourth career four-strikeout game in the postseason and all four have come against Cleveland — Judge had four strikeouts in Games 1, 4, and 5 of the 2017 ALDS. His career postseason numbers:

vs. Cleveland

44

.054/.205/.161

1

61.4%

vs. all others

120

.287/.383/.614

10

22.5%

“I think a lot of the day they executed against him,” Boone said. “A couple of the pitches he’s gotten to hit, he’s fouled off. I think a lot of today was a product of execution by them and being just a challenging day picking up spin and things like that.”

It should be noted Judge’s rough two ALDS games is really a rough few weeks dating back to the regular season. He went 8 for 37 (.216) with 15 strikeouts in his final 13 regular season games as he chased home runs No. 61 and 62. Teams did not give Judge much to hit late in the season, but the Guardians are going after him, and getting off competitive swings hasn’t been easy.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but if we did (have a plan to shut down Judge), I’m not sure I’d really want to share it. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said after Game 2. “I think sometimes — hitters can’t hit a button. As good as guys are, sometimes guys take 0-fors. Until you get through a series successfully, I don’t think anyone’s going to stand up here and pound our chest. He’s too dangerous. We know that.”

In addition to shutting Judge down, the Guardians also deserve credit for shutting down the batters in front of him. Judge has not batted with a single runner on base this series. He’s in scoring position when he’s in the batter’s box, but keeping runners off base ahead of him makes it a little easier to go after him, and gives pitchers more margin of error. Cleveland has succeeded in doing that. They’re putting themselves in position to be successful against Judge.

The Yankees won Game 1 without Judge contributing much (he drew a walk and stole a base ahead of Anthony Rizzo’s two-run insurance homer) and they might even be able to win the ALDS without him contributing much (see: 2017 ALDS), but there is little chance they can win a title without him being a major factor. New York’s lineup is too thin after the top 4-5 hitters to consistently win while get nothing from Judge.

Two games does not a postseason make, and the Yankees are even in the series rather than trailing, but they are at their best when Judge is a threat to change the game with each swing every at-bat. Right now, just getting the bat on the ball has been a challenge. The sooner Judge gets back into a groove at the plate, the better New York’s changes of moving on. Right now, he looks as lost as he has at any point in 2022.

“It’s baseball. You’re up against the best. Tough hitting conditions. Great hitters go 0-for on a given day. Great hitters fail more often than they succeed even when you’re rolling,” Boone said. “They neutralized him here these first two days, pitched him really tough, but he’ll get back on horse and be as dangerous as they come tomorrow night.”



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