AL East Hopes Dwindle, Wild Card Lead In Jeopardy

It’s the last day of August and the Yankees are coming off an embarrassing three game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland is one of the top teams in the American League so it’s no slight to lose to them. The reason the past three games were an embarrassment is because the Yankees scored all of four runs in those three games. You can count Greg Bird’s garbage time home run in the ninth inning during yesterday’s second game, but I’m not. The Yankees were feeling pretty good about themselves and their chances this weekend when they were just two games out in the loss column in the AL East Monday morning. The Indians came to town and the Yankees are now 5.5 games out in the division. They are clinging to a one game lead for the top Wild Card. Oh, how the feeling in the Bronx has changed in three days.

The big Yankees news heading into the Cleveland series was the benching of Aaron Judge to “refresh” him. He got all of Monday off and then Tuesday due to the rain out. Then Joe Girardi inexplicably used him as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the Double Header. It was not a move I agreed with. The Yankees were down one and were down to their last out. One swing of the bat could tie the game and Judge has shown prodigious power this year but this was not the time to use him. Sure, he could have hit one 450 feet to tie the game and be the hero but it wasn’t worth the risk, the risk of him striking out to end the game which is exactly what he did. Cleveland’s closer Cody Allen threw Judge five balls in that at bat and Judge swung at the last two and took miserable swings at those pitches. Now, whatever good you hoped the “refreshing” of Judge was going to do is completely thrown out the window because Girardi threw Judge into the biggest and last at bat of the game without thinking of the consequences.

Today we get a Yankees lineup that features Aaron Judge batting sixth. Why? In his return to the lineup in Game 2 he went 1-3 with a walk. Not the greatest line in the world but he also didn’t strike out four times. Did Girardi drop him to placate the media? I sure hope not. That’s not a man I want managing my ball club. Judge batted clean up yesterday and didn’t do anything disastrous to deserve to be dropped further. If the move to sixth was going to be made it should have been made yesterday. Bring him back from his hiatus and bat him sixth. You don’t bat him clean up one game and because he didn’t hit three home runs you decide it’s time for him to hit sixth. Judge’s slump has gone on so long that you need to take the positives out of what he’s doing. Sunday against the Mariners he went 1-3 with two walks. That’s the game Joe decided he needed to be refreshed not after his 1-10 series against Boston when it would’ve made more sense to sit him. They were going on the road against a Detroit team that they could beat without Judge. That was the series to sit him. Not against arguably the top team in the American League a day after he had three good at bats. Then Joe strikes again today. Judge has a couple good at bats yesterday and finds himself lower in the order. Instead of building off positives it’s like the guy is being punished because Joe is tired of answering questions about him and his slump. I don’t know that to be true but that’s the feeling I get.

People forget that Aaron Judge has not yet played ONE full season in MLB and they don’t have the patience for him to work out some growing pains. Yes, he was a monster in the first half hitting .329 with 30 homers. Now he’s down to .280 and has only hit 7 home runs since the ASB. I know it looks bad but he’s also only 25 years learning how to be a Major League Baseball star. It certainly is not helping him that the town is now kicking his butt instead of kissing it and his manager has no real rhyme or reason for the moves he makes with him in the lineup.

The bottom line is the Yankees need to start winning ballgames. They need to hold off the Twins and lock up the top Wild Card and they need Aaron Judge to be the beast he was through mid-July in order to do that. Maybe Joe Girardi does know what he’s doing and I am the irrational one. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Judge starts hitting home runs with regularity in the last month of this season and hopefully deep into October and hopefully his first victim is Eduardo Rodriguez tonight.

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