Three at-bats are what the Yankees got from Aaron Judge’s return from a strained calf and the injured list on Wednesday.
When their anemic lineup gets the next one is unknown.
Thursday, one day after Judge left the second game of a doubleheader against the Braves in Atlanta due a right calf issue, the right fielder went for an MRI exam.
“We are waiting on the results but it seems like a recurrence of what he had before. Pretty much the same spot and everything,’’ Aaron Boone said Thursday on WFAN. “It does seem minor in nature again, but it is something that could turn into an IL stint again. It tightened up on him, which was a little bit similar to before. I think he understands, hopefully minor, but a setback. I think he is obviously frustrated.’’
Nevertheless, there was some positive news on the injury front with second baseman DJ LeMahieu. The Yankees’ most complete hitter could jump off the IL shortly.
“DJ hit on the field live [Thursday] with Giancarlo [Stanton] and DJ is going to get some at-bats [Friday] in Scranton and be back this weekend,’’ Boone said of LeMahieu, who suffered a sprained left thumb on Aug. 15.
Immediately after Judge was removed from a game on Aug. 11, the Yankees won five straight. They beat the Braves and then swept a four-game series against the overmatched Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
However, when the Yankees stepped up in class they have faltered at the plate, where they also are without Stanton, LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres, who are on the IL.
The Rays swept the Yankees in three Bronx games and the Braves took two wins in Wednesday’s twin bill in Atlanta. While the Yankees were idle Thursday, the AL East-leading Rays had a 2 ½-length lead before their game against the Orioles was postponed. The Rays are in The Bronx for three games next week following a five-game Subway Series with the Mets.
During the season-high five-game slide that they take into Friday night’s doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees are 1-for-26 (.038) and have driven in three runs with runners in scoring position.
Furthermore, the Yankees have scored a total of 12 runs in the five losses and are hitting .181 (26-for-144).
With Judge, LeMahieu and Stanton out, other hitters besides Luke Voit haven’t picked up the slack.
Gary Sanchez is hitting .139 (10-for-72) in 23 games and has whiffed 34 times. Five of those 10 hits are homers. In Sanchez’s last 10 games, he is hitting .182 (6-for-33) with 12 strikeouts and four homers.
In 21 games this season, Brett Gardner is hitting .172 (10-for-58) and has a .290 on-base percentage, which is 52 points below his regular-season career average. In his last nine games, Gardner is hitting .125 (3-for-24).
Next in the Dead Bat Society is Aaron Hicks. The switch-hitting center fielder is batting .192 (14-for-73) in 23 games with two homers and 15 strikeouts. In the last five games, Hicks hit .056 (1-for-18) with a .272 OPS.
There is no doubt the Yankees have missed LeMahieu, Stanton and Torres, who wasn’t hitting when he went on the shelf with left hamstring and quadriceps problems on Aug. 24 (retroactive to Aug. 21). And the lineup is trying to get going with Tyler Wade at short for Torres and Estrada at second for LeMahieu.
Still, Gardner, Sanchez and Hicks must start to hit very soon, especially against a suspect Mets staff.
It would also help if Clint Frazier, who replaced Judge in right field Wednesday, reverted back to the hitter who tore up pitching when elevated from the alternate site.
In his first four games (all wins), the right-handed hitting outfielder went 8-for-15 (.533) with two homers, eight RBIs and posted a 1.696 OPS. In the last five games, Frazier went 1-for 15 (.067) without a homer or RBI and a .243 OPS. One good sign is that he struck out just once.