This past week was highlighted by countless amazing at-bats from the New York Yankees. There was Aaron Hicks’ game-tying three-run home run in the ninth inning on Thursday and Anthony Rizzo’s unbelievable 16-pitch base on balls against Framber Valdez. I was ready to write about both of these at-bats, but when it came down to it I thought showing the well-deserved love to Aaron Judge’s two walk-offs could not be passed up.
As if he could do any more than he already has, Judge came through huge in two at-bats this past weekend to complete a pair of comebacks against their ultimate foe, the Houston Astros. Neither at-bat was particularly long, but the Astros’ pitching was incredible all weekend, especially against Judge. They executed pitch after pitch, but when the lights shined brightest, Judge took care of business. You can’t make mistakes against this level of hitter. Let’s jump into the at-bats.
This is a classic, “I don’t want the smoke” pitch. Stanek is doing his best to get an 0-0 chase, but that’s not going to cut it against Judge. 1-0 count.
This was a good pitch. A quality off-speed pitch in advantage count that just barely missed below the zone. It’s not what Judge is looking for though. Usually in these at-bats against high velocity righties, he is hunting inside fastballs to pull. Maldonado made it pretty easy for the ump too from all the body movement. 2-0 count.
I mean at this point, why wouldn’t you just put Judge on base? Clearly Stanek had no intentions of giving the MVP something good to swing at, so why even waste the energy? It’s a weird approach. Nibbling like this against one of the bets players in the world usually doesn’t work out too well. Going into a 3-0 count, if you’re going to continue to pitch, then give your best shot at getting Judge to be too anxious or put him on base. Don’t be indecisive.
This was a laughable at-bat. After great execution from Houston pitching all game, they managed to do just about everything wrong. Stanek and Maldonado gave Judge the same pitch four times in a row and didn’t expect him to be ready to punish it if it was in the zone? This was flat splitter laid on a silver platter for Judge and even in a 3-0 count, he was ready to win the game for his team. Pitching scared to a world-class hitter is no recipe for success. Let’s get on to the second walk-off:
Now that is a perfect 0-0 pitch if you’re going to bother pitching to Judge. I still don’t see the logic here from Dusty but hey, if you have the confidence your pitcher will execute his pitches, then yeah, put your faith in them. It doesn’t just take one executed pitch in at-bats this huge though, it’s way more than that. You have to have an entire at-bats worth of good pitches. Once again, there is a base open and you have flexibility to make you best pitches with confidence. 0-1 count.
It’s like deja vu all over again. Remember what I said in Judge’s walk-off home run against Jordan Romano? His pitch-to-pitch adjustments are next level. They’re beyond special. After whiffing on a slider on the first pitch, he makes a subtle adjustment and crushes this ball over the left field wall. It wasn’t a perfect pitch, but it also wasn’t too bad. If you’re going to throw the same pitch twice in a row to Aaron Judge, it has to be perfect. Lesson learned, Seth Martinez.