NEW YORK -- The physical attributes are undeniable with Aaron Judge, a hulking athlete with plus power, a plus throwing arm and the agility to cover ground rapidly. That has all been impressive during the outfielder's standout rookie season, but the Yankees believe his mental makeup is the asset that
NEW YORK -- The physical attributes are undeniable with Aaron Judge, a hulking athlete with plus power, a plus throwing arm and the agility to cover ground rapidly. That has all been impressive during the outfielder's standout rookie season, but the Yankees believe his mental makeup is the asset that will make him a superstar for years to come.
Judge broke out of his playoff slump to make massive contributions on both sides of the ball in New York's 8-1 victory over the Astros on Monday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World, sandwiching a pair of terrific defensive plays around a three-run homer as the Yankees remained undefeated in the Bronx this postseason and cut Houston's series lead to 2-1 heading into Game 4 tonight.
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"He just sees the big picture. He's a pretty resilient guy," said Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner. "Mentally, he's on top of his game and he knows that good things are around the corner, even when things aren't going well. There's more to his game than home runs and walks. He plays really good defense out there in right field, too, and I think that's important."
Judge entered Game 3 mired in a 2-for-27 skid with 19 strikeouts. Despite outside suggestions that Judge should be dropped in the order or benched altogether, the 25-year-old was able to maintain his confidence and level-headed demeanor.
"I haven't changed anything since Day 1," Judge said. "A big change I wanted to make this year was just to prepare the right way, prepare the same way, and see how it works. It works during the regular season, so why would I come in the postseason and try to change something, even though I'm struggling?"
Manager Joe Girardi said Judge's 6-foot-7 frame lends itself to the occasional mechanical funk, and maybe that will be part of Judge's path the rest of the way. For the first three months of the season, he was essentially Babe Ruth, but Judge's average fell below .200 for a six-week stretch to open the second half. Still, he found ways to help the Yanks win games and then rebounded to hit .311 with 15 homers in September.
"You can look at his numbers and say he's not hitting for average," Girardi said. "I know how dangerous he is. He can really change a game really quickly."
Judge sacrificed his body in the top of the fourth inning, leaping with a crash into the right-field wall while reeling in Yuli Gurriel's bid at an extra-base hit. Yankee Stadium's outfield walls are thick concrete covered by a thin layer of padding. Jarred, Judge spilled head over heels on the warning track, but was able to keep squeezing the ball in his glove.
"The pad is only a couple of inches thick and what's behind that is not moving, even as big as he is," Gardner said. "Even though it's padded, it's a pretty big hit he took. He's a big guy, so the wall is probably hurting, too."
Watching from behind the mound, Carsten Sabathia waited for Judge to rise to his feet, then raised his right hand in appreciation.
"That was just a great play," Sabathia said. "Off the bat, here with the short right field, I didn't know what the result was going to be, but for him to go up and all out and make that catch was unbelievable."
Chants of "M-V-P!" circulated throughout Yankee Stadium following the grab, as they would in the home half of the fourth, when Judge's three-run homer off right-hander Will Harris busted the game open. Harris had shaken off catcher Evan Gattis twice after Gattis called for pitches low and away, and Harris said he threw the pitch he wanted -- a 93.4 mph fastball -- but missed his spot. Judge made Harris and the Astros pay.
"I didn't make the right decision, obviously," Harris said. "A good hitter got the best of me today."
It was Judge's second homer of the postseason, and his first since the AL Wild Card Game against the Twins on Oct 3.
Judge's defensive prowess was on display again in the fifth, as his chest thudded hard against the turf while snaring Cameron Maybin's sinking line drive. Statcast™ offered Judge just a catch probability of 29 percent, as he had 3.3 seconds to cover 45 feet.
"He's a big guy, so the ground is going to shake," Todd Frazier said. "He's got to be careful, but at the same time, we love it."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.