For all he did this season, Aaron Judge has struggled the past few times the Yankees have been in the playoffs.
Since homering for a third straight playoff game in Game 2 of the 2018 ALDS, when the Yankees knocked off the Red Sox at Fenway Park and Judge walked by the Red Sox’ clubhouse with a stereo blasting “New York, New York,” he hasn’t had much postseason success.
And until Tuesday’s Game 1 ALDS win over Cleveland in The Bronx, neither had the Yankees.
They went on to lose that Boston series in 2018 and have beaten only Minnesota and Cleveland in the playoffs since, with a loss to Houston in the 2019 ALCS, Tampa Bay in the 2020 ALDS and Boston in last year’s wild-card game.
In Tuesday’s series-opening win at the Stadium against the Guardians, Judge walked, stole a base and scored, but he also went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
With that performance, he’s now played 20 games since that victory in Boston and is hitting .192 (15-for-78) in 93 plate appearances.
He has just four extra-base hits (all homers) and an OPS of .651 to go along with only seven RBIs, 13 walks and 25 strikeouts.
It’s a stark contrast to the first 16 playoff games of Judge’s career, when he hit .267 (16-for-60) with four doubles, seven homers, 15 RBIs, 11 walks and 29 strikeouts for an OPS of 1.064.
The upcoming trip to Cleveland might not do any favors to Judge, as he went 1-for-7 with three walks and a pair of strikeouts in three games there this season and his career OPS of .688 at Progressive Field is Judge’s lowest at any ballpark where he’s played more than six games.
Anthony Rizzo’s two-run shot against Cleveland was just his latest postseason success against the AL Central champs. The first baseman has appeared in eight playoff games versus Cleveland — including the 2016 World Series while with the Cubs — and is 10-for-29, with three doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.
The Yankees bullpen will no doubt be tested during this postseason run, but it is certainly a well-rested group.
Since the team has played just one game in over a week, only Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta and Clay Holmes have pitched since the end of the regular season — and none of them threw more than 12 pitches in Tuesday’s win.