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Yankees' power shifts momentum in ALDS

Judge, Sanchez flex muscle in Game 2 as teams head to Bronx even
October 7, 2018

It feels as if the Yankees did more on Saturday night than even the American League Division Series against the Red Sox at a game apiece with a 6-2 win. It feels as if they went ahead before heading home.Aaron Judge, the biggest star in baseball right now, hit a

It feels as if the Yankees did more on Saturday night than even the American League Division Series against the Red Sox at a game apiece with a 6-2 win. It feels as if they went ahead before heading home.
Aaron Judge, the biggest star in baseball right now, hit a home run during his last at-bat in Game 1 and followed it up with another one his first time up in Game 2. His Saturday shot, in a place famous for the Green Monster and Monster Seats, was a monster, indeed. Gary Sanchez, whom the Yankees once thought might hit 50 home runs in a season before Judge beat him to it, hit a pair himself -- one even further than Judge's. Sanchez's last one put the Red Sox in a 6-1 hole.
This was the Yankees being the Yankees.
ALDS presented by T-Mobile, Game 3: Today, 7:40 p.m. ET, live on TBS
The Yankees hit 267 home runs this season, a record. We can only speculate what that number might have been if Judge didn't miss seven weeks because of a fractured right wrist he sustained after being hit by a pitch in late July. The Yanks -- in the days of Babe Ruth, of course -- became famous as the Bronx Bombers. They're the Bronx Bombers again, moreso than ever, built around "All Rise" Judge, who now looks bigger than everybody the way Ruth once did. He has become as glamorous a figure hitting home runs at the new Yankee Stadium as Ruth and Mickey Mantle were at the old place.
This is who Judge is -- and home runs are what the Yankees are all about. He got them back to within a run on Friday night with one. Judge and Sanchez put the Yanks up two runs on David Price on Saturday with a pair. It now seems as if the only Yankee not to take Price out of the park this season is Yankees manager Aaron Boone. Sanchez finished the job later, hitting one out of Fenway off Eduardo Rodriguez, the distance on it estimated to be 479 feet.
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
Now, Judge, Sanchez and the Yankees bring the whole thing back to Yankee Stadium -- where the Yanks have won seven straight postseason games, three of them in the AL Championship Series last October against the Astros. The Yankees got the road split they wanted in Boston. If the Red Sox cannot do the same in New York -- where the Yanks look even bigger and badder -- what has been such a magical season won't even make it back to Fenway for a Game 5 next Thursday night.
It is not just that the Yankees hit the way they did against the Red Sox on Saturday night. They have pitched well, too. Since the Red Sox knocked J.A. Happ out of Game 1 after two-plus innings, New York has used seven pitchers against Boston. All have pitched well, allowing the Red Sox just two runs over the last 14 innings.
The Red Sox scored five runs to claim Game 1. The Yankees only scored one more to take Game 2, yet it still felt different on Saturday night. The Yanks didn't just beat the Sox -- they beat them up. They did it with home runs, since that's what they do.
It was mentioned to Boone one time during the season that even with the Yankees hitting home runs the way they do -- in bulk -- maybe they rely on them too much. Boone dismissed the notion this way:
"If someone is a good pitcher, he will get you out -- whether you hit home runs or singles. It doesn't matter."

When it was all over on Saturday night, Judge said all the things he often says about just wanting to get "quality at-bats." Well, yeah. Since he was hurt during the season, he only ended up with 27 homers in 112 games. Now, Judge has played three games in the postseason so far and come to the plate 12 times. He has seven hits -- three of them homers -- four RBIs and has scored five runs. The batting average to date this postseason is .583, while Judge's OPS is a fun 2.060. His slugging percentage in the only season that has ever mattered to the Yankees, is 1.417. It is safe to say Judge is the most dangerous No. 2 hitter in baseball history.
The Red Sox began to settle things in the AL East with a four-game sweep of the Yankees in August, a series that began with them overcoming a 4-0 deficit in the first game. They have come back all season -- you have to be able to if you end up with 108 wins. It wasn't so long ago they were clinching the AL East title at Yankee Stadium. But now, a team that did win all those games must win at least one in New York to stay alive.
Suddenly, it is a hard thing to get a game off this Yankee team in the Bronx in October. The Yanks trailed the Twins 3-0 in the first inning of the 2017 AL Wild Card Game, but came back to win. The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the ALDS last year, lost two straight at the Stadium, and eventually lost the series. The Astros took the first two games of the ALCS last year, before the Yankees took three in a row at Yankee Stadium. Then, New York's offense completely shut down in Games 6 and 7 when the series returned to Minute Maid Park. The Yanks opened the '18 postseason with a 7-2 win over the A's in another AL Wild Card Game. Judge hit a homer his first time up in that game, too, in what felt every bit like a first-round knockout.
The Yankees have a lot of work to do if they're going to knock the Red Sox out of the postseason again. They only return home even -- even though it doesn't feel that way, at this point. Yanks fans have Judge and Sanchez to thank for the wave of confidence that's accompanying the team home to the Bronx.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.