In game one of the Yankees’ Sunday doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, runs were extremely hard to come by. In fact, the entire day was a struggle offensively for the Yanks. These are the days where you rely on the big bopper to give you a chance to get back in a game. Luckily for the Bronx Bombers, Aaron Judge is scorching hot. No matter the pitcher or situation, he is dangerous in a one-run ball game. In the eighth inning on Sunday, Judge had his shot and didn’t fail.
Down 1-0. Leading the league in home runs. Team hasn’t scratched across a single run all game. You’re looking for one pitch in one zone. That’s the approach in these close games in late innings. Kendall Graveman isn’t an ideal matchup for Judge. Although number 99 has tattooed inside pitches this year, inside running sinkers are a tough pitch for him. With arms like his, it’s nice to have space to get the bat head way out in front of the plate.
I’m sure Judge had that in mind going into this at-bat though. When facing somebody with a high velocity sinker, you are conscious about having a quick trigger and keeping your hands inside the baseball. With that in mind, let’s jump into the at-bat.
This was an auto take for Judge. Like I said before, you’re looking for one pitch in this situation. Graveman made a good decision to start with the slider. Judge isn’t one to ambush breaking balls like his teammate, Giancarlo Stanton. Getting ahead in the count is always an advantage, so might as well play it safe with a slider on the outer third. In an 0-1 count with the most dangerous power hitter in the league, you have to play with the corners. Mistakes simply cannot happen.
Another well-executed pitch for Graveman. You can’t go wrong with a 99-mph sinker running inside after you just flipped in a slider. The speed differential was enough to mess with Judge’s timing to get him late on this pitch. Even when hunting fastballs, the previous pitch speed can significantly impact your timing. We all know that Judge can hit high-speed heaters, and that is exactly why throwing off his timing is so important.
Graveman and Grandal perfectly executed these first two pitches. While the slider was an auto take for Judge, it put Graveman in a great position. He hadn’t flashed his best breaking ball yet and on top of that, he still had the changeup in his bag. Looking for a strikeout or a chance to put Judge away, I thought a slider was the right choice. At a 37 percent whiff rate, the pitch was Graveman’s best chance to sit Judge down via the strikeout. Even a changeup diving under the zone could have been a chance for Judge to chase or groundout. That’s not what Grandal or Graveman wanted though. Instead, he threw another sinker in the same zone. Bad idea.
The same pitch and location despite Judge’s solid, on-time swing in the 0-1 count. To be fair, Graveman executed this pitch as much as he possibly could. Check out this location.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter where you throw it. Judge is seeing beach balls coming into the zone. 97 mph in on the hands are meatballs apparently. He sent this 431 feet with a chicken wing lead arm for a swing. Not many hitters can do it, but Judge is certainly one of them. This result was the same as our previous at-bats of the week, but it took way shorter to get there. Sometimes, the at-bat is won in the approach and not the battle. Throwing two of the same pitch in a row wasn’t going to work for Graveman with Judge this scorching hot.