NEW YORK — It didn’t matter that Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs during the season. The ruthless crowd at Yankee Stadium will boo anybody if it believes they are underperforming. And on Friday during the Yankees‘ 4-2 loss to Cleveland in Game 2 of the ALDS, Judge became the target.
As he walked back to the dugout in the seventh inning after striking out for the fourth time on Friday, Yankees fans booed Judge, who is now 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts through the first two games of the ALDS. With his fourth strikeout on Friday, Judge tallied his fourth four-strikeout playoff game, the most of any player in MLB history.
“There’s nothing I can do. I gotta play better,” Judge said. “That’s what it comes down to. Didn’t do the job tonight.”
Throughout the game, Cleveland’s pitchers targeted Judge with breaking balls down and away on the outer half of the plate. When Judge received pitches he could hit in the middle of the strike zone, he swung late, a consistent theme throughout the first two games against Cleveland.
“The timing’s a little off, you’re going to be swinging at pitches you don’t normally swing at, and the ones you can hit, you’re just a tick late or tick out in front a little bit,” Judge said. “Just work on that timing and I think it’ll be good to go.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone credited the Guardians pitching staff for its success against Judge.
“A lot of the day, they executed against him,” Boone said. “The couple pitches he’s gotten to hit, he’s fouled off. I think a lot of today was a product of execution by them and this being just a challenging day picking up spin, things like that.”
When asked if Cleveland had a specific game plan on attacking Judge, Guardians manager Terry Francona kept his mouth shut.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but if I did, I’m not sure I’d really want to share it,” Francona said. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I think sometimes hitters can’t hit a button, and as good as guys are, sometimes guys take 0-fors.”
Judge said that the nine days of rest that the Yankees received between the end of the regular season and the playoffs did not affect his timing at the plate. And while Judge has struggled through the first two games, he does not expect this to carry over onto the rest of the series as the Yankees head to Cleveland for the third and fourth game of the series.
“I’ve had two bad games in my career multiple times,” Judge said. “It’s part of it. You just got to learn from it, learn from mistakes and you’re ready for the next one because guess what, there’s no breaks right now.”
The Guardians aren’t waving the victory flag on Judge yet either.
“Until you get through a series successfully, I don’t think anybody if going to stand up here and pound our chest,” Francona said. “He’s too dangerous. We know that.”
Judge’s struggles through the first two games of the series doesn’t change that he was a hitter who hit 62 homers this season. That doesn’t slip the mind of anyone on either team, and the rest of the Yankees expressed confidence that he will find his swing before the end of the series.
“He’s had 10 or less at-bats,” Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton said. “It’s just a small sample size that you can use. He’s got time and it’s over now. So that don’t matter. We got to win two out of three and he’s going to help us do so.”