Judge all about October: 'I want it in my hands'

October 7th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Yankees right fielder has adjusted to the postseason spotlight and is learning how much fun the experience can be when everything is going well.

That is what’s happening for the Yankees right now in the American League Division Series. Their offense scored 18 runs in the first two games, and Judge contributed with three doubles in six at-bats, along with four walks.

“We are firing on all cylinders, and everybody is clicking and everybody is swinging the bat well,” Judge said after the Yankees’ workout Sunday at Target Field. “That’s when hitting becomes fun. You can lock in on one pitch, and if they make a mistake, you hammer it.

“When everybody is firing on all cylinders, there are no holes in this offense. That’s what we have been doing in the first two games, and we have to keep it rolling.”

The four walks were significant. If the Twins were trying to pitch around Judge, he let them do so and counted on his teammates to make them pay.

“I feel like the bigger moments, the bigger situations, that’s when you really hone in and try to find a pitch you can drive,” Judge said. “Especially with the team I have around me, if they are not going to give me something to hit, I’ll take my walk and let anybody drive me in. They make my job easier. Look for a good pitch to hit, and if I don’t get it, I will pass the baton.”

Postseason baseball hasn’t always been that fun for Judge.

He hit 52 home runs for the Yankees as a rookie in 2017 but was 1-for-20 with 16 strikeouts in a five-game ALDS against the Indians. His performance didn’t cost the Yankees as they advanced to the American League Championship Series to face the Astros.

Judge has been much better since that series against the Indians. Over his last 14 postseason games, he is hitting .347 (17-for-49) with six home runs, 11 RBIs, 14 runs, a .467 on-base percentage and a .776 slugging percentage. He also has 11 walks against 14 strikeouts.

Judge said there are nerves and excitement at this time of year, but mostly it is about having fun.

“Anytime there’s a game on the line big situation … I want it in my hands,” Judge said. “That’s what it’s all about. You want to help your team win. Never shy away from those moments. I always had faith in my teammates if I didn’t get the job done, they would pick me up. Having faith in them frees me up to go out and do my job.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Judge seems to enjoy the pressure.

“I think he eats it up,” Boone said. “Now that we're in the playoffs, I think you've seen just he's one of those guys that you feel like ratchets it up a little bit more. I think he lives for this kind of thing. And to see him out there in every aspect -- defensively, running the bases, the at-bat quality pitch to pitch -- has been great, and I feel like he's at his best right now.”

Encarnación a key pickup

immediately looked the part when he walked into Yankee Stadium’s home clubhouse for the first time on June 17, a battle-tested veteran who -- at the time of his acquisition from the Mariners -- was leading the American League with 21 homers.

“I was really happy when I was traded to the Yankees, a team that's always competing, so much history,” Encarnación recalled on Sunday. “I wasn't thinking about where I was going to land in the lineup but just being happy that I was being traded to a team that's highly competitive like the Yankees.”

Though Encarnación lost two stretches of his Yankees season to a right wrist fracture and a left oblique strain, the 36-year-old still completed the campaign with 34 homers and 86 RBIs. He has carried a dangerous bat into the ALDS, going 4-for-9 with two doubles and two RBIs against Twins pitching through the first two games.

“I think a lot of people at the time were wondering if we were going to go get pitching, but this situation presented itself,” Boone said. “To get a guy the caliber of Edwin to add to our team, when he's been healthy and in our lineup, I think everyone has seen what a difference maker he is right in the middle. He's a wrecking machine. He's a great hitter, and he's shown it every step of the way.”

Boone said that he plans to make no changes to the lineup for Game 3 on Monday.

“It’s definitely one of the better lineups I've ever seen,” Encarnación said. “One through nine, it's impressive. And it has to be fun for the fans to see the full lineup.”

All hands on deck

Boone said the Yankees do not have a Game 4 starter lined up, should Minnesota extend the ALDS. is one option as an opener, or could draw that start if he is not needed to pitch out of the bullpen in Game 3.

“I would say that anything's on the table still,” Boone said. “We're going to pour everything in. Happ will be available in Game 3, and we'll just see how it unfolds and then we'll go from there. Hopefully, we're in a position to where we're not making the decision, but we'll cross that bridge if we have to. We're going into Game 3 with the old ‘all hands on deck,’ and J.A. will be part of that mix in the ’pen for us in Game 3.”