Yankees vs. Astros Is Now All About Aaron Judge, Whether He Likes It Or Not

One of many strange things about watching sport on television, one whose significance becomes apparent only when you pause to think, is the soundlessness of it all.

It isn’t silence, by any definition of that word. Not even quietness, as such. You can hear contact, shouts, the screams of the crowd, the commentary clear and smooth overlaying everything. But the action is muffled—moving pictures of joy and despair wrapped in cotton wool.

It was like that on Monday night, at the bottom of the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium, when Aaron Judge faced a 2-2 pitch from the Astros’ Will Harris and sent it hurtling into the crowd. A “no-doubter,” though it didn’t travel very high or even very far compared to some of Judge’s regular-season hammers.

 

 

On television, on replays, you can see the crowd jumping better than you can hear them screaming, though the roar of the collective was tremendous. But the greatest noise around Judge—by all accounts, and appropriately, a quiet man—comes post-fact. “This postseason, Judge is morphing into a combination of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez,” Andrew Marchand wrote in his ESPN game story, noting the terrific catch Judge made at the wall at the top of the fourth inning, and the two-run homer he took away from Francisco Lindor in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians.

When Judge has been quiet with the bat during the Yankees’ 2017 playoff run, he has still generated vast amounts of noise. At times, it has seemed like the team’s offensive struggles have all been laid at the door of a 25-year-old at the end of what is, technically, his rookie season. If you crush home runs like they are going out of fashion, of course—52 in the regular season for Judge—then you are going to attract that kind of pressure. Deign to carry a team on your back, and expect the complaints when it has to walk by itself for a little while.

And, flipping the card over—when Judge has made noise, as he did in the Bronx last night with that line drive struck with such certainty—all of the noise has been about Judge. C.C. Sabathia’s pitching performance last night—and against the Indians, going back to the ALDS—have inarguably been more crucial in dragging the Yankees through to a Game 4 against the Astros than Judge’s occasional postseason starbursts. And sure, there has been plenty written about the nourishing story of Sabathia wrenching back the years. Plenty, too, about Todd Frazier who hails from New Jersey and joined the Yankees mid-season and who blasted his own home run on Monday night.

But there is a reason this piece is only about Sabathia and Frazier tangentially, or even, and even more unforgivably, about the divine talents of Jose Altuve who may yet be M.V.P. It is Judge who creates the biggest aftershocks, whether he cracks a line drive into the bleachers or is muffled by the night’s starting pitcher. For better or worse, maybe unfairly, but naturally, this series—and the Yankees’ entire run from hereon in—centers around Judge.

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