Aaron Judge’s Yankees greatness is being tested now

There will be nights like this one, when the Yankees’ bullpen implodes. There will be nights like this one, when Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball deep to right, just not deep enough, and on a rope...

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There will be nights like this one, when the Yankees’ bullpen implodes.

There will be nights like this one, when Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball deep to right, just not deep enough, and on a rope to left, but into the glove of Kyle Schwarber.

There will be nights when perhaps a pair of opposite-field home runs from DJ LeMahieu will be enough, especially if Gerrit Cole is on the mound.

But there will be nights when Jonathan Loaisiga, torched Friday by a three-run Josh Harrison homer, will keep a tie game tied in the eighth and the Yankees won’t commit three errors in the inning and Aaron Boone won’t have to ask and need Aaron Judge to win it for him.

But on this night, it is time to ask: What’s wrong with Aaron Judge?

He is now the throes of a 1-for-20 slump with 12 Ks, and if he is letting his hitting affect his fielding, then his failing to backhand a Yadiel Hernandez single leading off the fateful eighth would be a cause for concern. No one thinks it is, but only Judge and his seven homers knows for sure.

On the night when Stanton’s 12-game hitting streak came to an end, Judge capped an 0-for-4 by waving futilely at a Tanner Rainey slider, and the Yankees’ 11-4 loss to the Nationals left them at 16-16.

Judge, back from missing those two games with lower-body soreness, looks every bit as lost at the plate as Francisco Lindor has been on the other side of town. Lindor homered on Friday night, and he is certain to break out. You have to believe Judge will, too.

Aaron Judge can’t field a ball during the Yankees’ loss to the Nationals on Friday.
Getty Images

He has a history of streaky hitting, and Stanton will need a streaking partner this spring and summer, especially if the rotation starts to falter and the bullpen stops seamlessly passing the baton to Aroldis Chapman.

Gleyber Torres is still looking for his first home run, Clint Frazier and Aaron Hicks are scuffling, and Gary Sanchez is desperately attempting to slug his way past Kyle Higashioka behind the plate. That leaves the Yankees with little or no margin for errors, certainly.

Boone won’t soon stop channeling his inner Joe Torre when it comes to having his players’ backs, especially his star player and The Straw Who Stirs The Drink.

“I’m not too worried about [Judge],” Boone said. “Greatness has a way of figuring it out, and you know along the way you’ll have a couple of bumps here and there on a couple of games.”

The proverbial glass half-full, ladies and gentlemen.

“I feel like he’s getting some good swings off and getting some pitches within the at-bat,” Boone said. “Houston pitched him tough, and when you get your pitch and you foul it off or whatever, that’s when you get yourself in a little bit of trouble, get yourself in a hole.”

Judge’s E-9, for misplaying the ball after Hernandez’s leadoff single in the eighth, was his first since Sept. 30, 2018.

“He’s as good as it gets out there,” Boone said, “so anytime he doesn’t do something perfect, it kinda catches you off a little bit. When that ball’s kinda slowing down, it’s kinda that in-between hop, and you gotta stick it with the glove instead of it’s not just rolling in there automatically, so it’s a little bit of a challenging play there … probably would have been a double anyway.”

If there was any good news, aside from Jameson Taillon weathering a pair of home runs to pitch into the seventh inning, it came from the lonely bat of Sanchez, who cracked his first home run since April 3, or 72 at-bats, off Patrick Corbin in the second inning.

He sat on a slider and golfed it effortlessly into the left-field seats, and what once was commonplace for Sanchez is now merely a harbinger of hope.

Can it be the beginning of a resurgence that can carry Sanchez back into the hearts of Yankees fans who wouldn’t have shed tears had he been traded over the offseason?

This could be Sanchez’s last chance to change the narrative. About his conditioning. About his framing pitches. About Cole performing better when Higashioka is behind the plate.

Sanchez later worked a walk from Kyle Finnegan after falling behind on the count 0-2 and nearly banged a second home run.

“I thought his at-bats were really good,” Boone said.

Boone needs to put away his rose-colored glasses when he looks at Judge. Greatness has a way of figuring it out. Figure it out, Aaron Judge.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Steve Serby

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