BALTIMORE — With Aaron Judge leading the way in his second game back from a toe injury, the Yankees’ offense looked a lot different in Saturday’s 8-3 win over the Orioles.
Giancarlo Stanton started the scoring with a solo home run in the first, and Kyle Higashioka added one of his own in the sixth. But it was Judge’s two-run homer in the third — part of a three-hit night for the reigning MVP — that had his peers in awe after the outfielder missed nearly two months.
“That’s why he gets the big bucks,” said Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who ripped a three-run double in the sixth. “He’s the captain for a reason. He means everything to this organization, and you see the difference in the energy with or without [him]. Pretty self-explanatory. The fans rise up when he’s in the lineup.
“I felt like when he wasn’t there, it was kind of just everybody flying open and trying to do too much.”
The Yankees have been a sub-.500 team without Judge this season, and their offense became one of baseball’s worst after he tore a ligament in his right big toe on June 3.
On Saturday, Aaron Boone said that Judge’s presence in the lineup is “enormous.” But the manager also loved what he saw from the rest of the offense.
“That’s us, and that’s who we want to be, and that’s what we’re working to be,” Boone said. “That was really good to see.”
The Yankees entered Sunday’s rubber match against the first-place O’s with a 55-49 record. They are in last place, but they’re 3.5 games away from the American League’s third and final Wild Card slot. The Yankees’ next two opponents, the Rays and Astros, hold the first two Wild Cards, while the Blue Jays are in possession of the third.
The Red Sox are also ahead of the Yankees, as Boston is 2.5 games behind Toronto.
While the Yankees have some ground to make up, Judge believes his team is capable of making a run.
“I wouldn’t count us out,” the slugger said. “We’re gonna take it one day at a time, we’re gonna continue to show up every single day. And I think that’s all we can do at this point. I’m not going to look down the road or look past tomorrow’s game, but if we just keep showing up, doing our job, and playing the way we’re supposed to, I think we’ll be in a good spot.”
Of course, it would help if the Yankees added more than just Judge to their lineup.
The trade deadline is Tuesday, and the Bombers could use a bat or two, in addition to defensive and pitching upgrades. The Yankees entered the weekend feeling they were in a position to be buyers, but they wanted to see how the squad looked against a talented Orioles team.
With Judge in the lineup, they looked pretty good on Saturday after losing the series-opener, 1-0, on Friday night. Judge, in his grand return, walked three times in that game, but the rest of the Yankees’ offense sputtered.
While it’s clear that the Yankees could use more assistance, Boone avoided trade speculation prior to Saturday’s game, insisting that his focus is on who he has right now.
Judge echoed similar sentiments when asked about what the front office should do ahead of the deadline. Instead, he repeated that “it’s out of our control,” a reference to Yankees players.
“We got a job to do on the field,” Judge said. “We’re here. We’re fully capable with the guys we got in this clubhouse to go out there and compete on a daily basis until the end of the year. So that’s out of our hands. We’ll let them do their part. We’ll do ours.”