If the Houston Astros blow the American League Championship Series, we’ll be able to pinpoint the exact moment the series flipped. After smashing a three-run homer in Game 3, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge’s bat awakened in a big way during Game 4.
Judge looked much more like himself at the plate during the contest. He started the Yankees’ late rally, belting a solo shot off Lance McCullers in the seventh inning to cut the lead to three runs.
One inning later, Judge came up big again, smacking a double deep to left to drive in two runs, tying up the contest. He would later come around to score the go-ahead run on a Gary Sanchez double. The Yankees managed to pull off an incredible late-inning comeback, winning Game 4 6-4 and tying up the series at 2-2.
Judge’s contributions are a welcome sign for the club. The 25-year-old MVP candidate hasn’t been himself this October. Coming into Tuesday’s game, Judge had a .147 batting average in nine postseason games. He had struck out an incredible 21 times in 41 plate appearances.
Early on Tuesday, it looked like he might be in for more of the same. Judge picked up yet another strikeout in his first plate appearance of the game, going down swinging on a McCullers curveball.
But those fears proved to be premature. Judge walked in the fourth inning, and then added his home run and double in his final two at-bats. It was his first multi-hit contest since the American League wild-card game against the Minnesota Twins. He also homered in that game.
We can already hear the skeptics saying “So what? Judge has only hit in two straight games. That doesn’t mean a thing.”
While it’s true that’s a small sample, Game 4 provided a little extra evidence that Judge might be locked in again at the plate. As our own Jeff Passan pointed out, Judge’s kryptonite this postseason has been off-speed pitches. Teams have given him nothing but curveballs and sliders and he’s whiffed on them all October. They made the mistake of giving Judge a fastball in Game 3, and that’s the pitch he belted for the home run.
Things were different in Game 4. Judge still saw a steady diet of off-speed pitches, but he didn’t miss them. Judge’s home run came on a curveball from McCullers. His game-tying double came on a slider from Ken Giles. In fairness, the McCullers pitch was hung right down the middle. But Giles’ pitch was down and just out of the zone. Judge had to go down and get that one.
His performance on the base-paths could still use some work, though. Judge was involved in one of the weirdest replay situations we’ve ever seen after failing to touch second base as he tried to scramble back to first on a Sanchez fly out. We’ll just say Judge made up for that by scoring the go-ahead run later in the contest.
Sure, two games don’t make a postseason. And as we know, Judge is still going to be prone to the strikeout. But Tuesday’s game was the first time during the playoffs Judge has shown legitimate signs of regaining his MVP form.
The Yankees already have the momentum after coming back from an 0-2 deficit. Now, they might have Judge back too. Those two things should keep Astros relievers awake at night before Game 5.
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