NEW YORK — For Aaron Judge's standards, the slugger has found himself in a bit of a slump over the last few weeks.
Judge entered play on Thursday afternoon hitting .205 (9-for-44) with 22 strikeouts over his last 10 games, mustering up just one lone extra base hit in that span.
In the rubber match of a series with the visiting Royals, however, Judge snapped back to reality, reaching base a career-high-tying five times in his fifth three-hit game of the year.
"Really good to see him come out and have that kind of day and really set the tone for us offensively," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said following the 8-1 victory.
It all began in the bottom of the first when Judge turned a two-strike slider from Brad Keller into a solo home run over the short porch in right. The blast was Judge's team-leading 16th homer of the season.
He followed the souvenir with a 109.3-mph missile to left field in his next at-bat, an RBI single to plate Tyler Wade in the second. Adding a double to right-center field later in the game, flanked by two walks, Judge finished a triple shy of the cycle, his 38th game this season where he's reached base more than once.
The slugger joked after the game that he didn't realize he was one knock away from the cycle until a fan in the right-field seats told him to run hard in his next at-bat so he can get to third.
"I had no idea until maybe the seventh inning," Judge said. "In the eighth you kind of think about it a little bit, but once you step in the box, your job is just to get a good pitch to hit and drive it. And I really didn't get much. I'll take my walk and eventually score."
Judge singled out the way he was pulling out on pitches with his lower half over his last several games as a culprit for his dip in production. He recalled watching film before the series finale, deciding to make more of a conscious effort to stride forward and work with a mindset of driving the baseball to right center.
Even with his inability to break through during this recent stretch, his overall numbers this season haven't taken much of a hit.
Factoring in these last few weeks, Judge is now batting .317/.408/.545 (46-for-145) with 30 runs, six doubles, nine home runs, 20 RBI and 22 walks in his last 39 games (since May 11). The slugger is also tied with DJ LeMahieu, leading the team with 70 games played, a testament to his durability after years of injury-riddled campaigns.
The heart of New York's order—Judge, Gary Sánchez, Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit—combined to go 9-for-18 on Thursday with three homers, six RBI and seven runs scored. Asked after the game what exactly this unit is capable of when all those sluggers are producing in unison, Boone assured that the ceiling for those in pinstripes is "really high."
"The guys in that lineup have set a really high bar," Boone said. "I certainly think they're capable of being one of if not the best offense in the game. That's what we'll keep working towards and that'll continue to be our expectation."
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