When baseball broke for the All-Star Game on July 9, Judge led the major leagues in home runs and was a top Triple Crown candidate as he tore out of the gate in his rookie season.
But since appearing in the All-Star Game, he has foundered, batting .179, with 26 hits in 145 at-bats, seven home runs and 16 R.B.I. He has struck out 65 times and has just 11 extra-base hits.
Judge was not in the lineup during the Yankees’ defeat Monday night at Yankee Stadium, and, Girardi added, will almost certainly not be in their lineup Tuesday night, either. Girardi would not even offer assurances that Judge would be back on the field Wednesday.
“I’ll sleep on it,” he said, “And then I’ll go from there.”
And if benching Judge was not surprising enough, it came at a key moment. The Yankees are embarking on one of the most crucial weeks of their season, with three games against the American League Central-leading Indians, a potential playoff opponent, followed by four games against the Boston Red Sox, whom the Yankees trail by three and a half games in the A.L. East.
“He’s played in a lot of games and I just think it might be time to give him a couple of days,” Girardi said of Judge. “I just want him to take a mental day and a physical day and just rest. He hasn’t had many of those days. I think in the long run this is going to help us.”
The Yankees lost the first of those seven crucial games when their own ace, Luis Severino, allowed four runs over six and two-thirds innings. Three of the runs came on solo homers — two of them by Indians second baseman Jose Ramirez, who entered the game having hit just one home run since the All-Star break.
Entering the sixth inning, Severino held a 2-1 lead on a third-inning solo home run by Chase Headley — his first hit in 13 career at-bats against Kluber — and an R.B.I. single by Todd Frazier in the fifth, which ended an 0-for-16 slump.
But Severino gave up a tying home run to Ramirez with two out in the sixth and a solo shot to Carlos Santana with one out in the seventh. Cleveland got an unearned run later in the inning and added single runs off Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve.
After Frazier’s R.B.I. single, the Yankees did not manage another hit off Kluber, who scattered three hits over eight innings and improved his record to 13-4 with a 2.63 E.R.A., lowest among A.L. starting pitchers.
And, true to his word, Girardi resisted the impulse to use Judge as a pinch-hitter.
“I told him today, just take today off and rest your body,” Girardi said. “I think that’s important. And then we’ll get back to work.”
Entering the All-Star break, Judge led baseball in home runs with 30 – one more than Joe DiMaggio had hit as a rookie — and was batting second best in the A.L. He was a bona fide phenomenon, and as far back as May, the Yankees created a section of seats in right field called “The Judge’s Chambers,” where fans — wearing team-issued Judge robes and wigs — could sit and cheer the 25-year-old right-fielder.
But since the All-Star Game Judge’s batting average has dropped to .280, and his production over the second half of 2017 is a virtual mirror image of difficult run in 2016, when he batted .179 with four home runs and 10 R.B.I. and struck out 42 times in 84 at-bats.
Judge was not available to reporters in the clubhouse before the game and did not take batting practice on the field with the team.
Gary Sanchez, who as a rookie in the second half of 2016 put up comparable numbers to what Judge produced in the first half of 2017, said, “I would say a day off most likely will help him. We’ve just got to hope that when he comes back he’s ready to play the way we know he’s capable of playing.”
Continue reading the main story