Yankees slugger Aaron Judge off to rough start in playoffs

NEW YORK (AP) — After bashing his way to a historic regular season, Aaron Judge is coming up empty in the playoffs.

At least so far.

The star slugger for the New York Yankees went 0 for 5 with four strikeouts in Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians in Game 2 of their American League Division Series. He is 0 for 8 with seven strikeouts in the deadlocked best-of-five series.

“Just a little late,” Judge said. “When you’re a little late, you’re missing pitches that you’re usually doing some damage on. You’re swinging at stuff that you usually don’t. So it’s truly all about timing.”

The 30-year-old Judge hit .311 with 62 homers and 131 RBIs this season, leading New York to the AL East title and setting himself up for a big payday. The 6-foot-7 outfielder is eligible for free agency after breaking Roger Maris’ AL home run record.

The Yankees earned a bye through the first round of the playoffs, and it looks as if Judge is still looking for his form from his stellar regular season.

Judge struck out three times against Cleveland ace Shane Bieber in Game 2. He whiffed again in the seventh against Trevor Stephan, and then heard some boos from the crowd of 47,535 at Yankee Stadium.

“There’s nothing I can do,” Judge said. “I gotta play better. I didn’t do the job tonight, especially as a leadoff hitter I gotta get on base. I got to make something happen on the basepaths, and I didn’t do that tonight.”

Added manager Aaron Boone: “It’s the Bronx, man.”

Judge avoided a fifth strikeout when he grounded out to third on closer Emmanuel Clase’s 100 mph cutter in the ninth.

Judge had plenty of company for his quiet afternoon. New York’s powerful offense struck out 15 times, stranded 11 and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

“He’ll make an adjustment,” designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton said. “If his timing is off, he’ll get started a little earlier. He’ll be fine.”

Judge’s rough start to the series dropped his postseason batting average to .217 (31 for 143). He has struggled against Cleveland in particular, going 2 for 37 with 28 strikeouts in nine games.

It was the fourth time that Judge struck out four times in a postseason game. His previous three instances were in the 2017 ALDS against Cleveland when New York rallied to win the series in five.

“Good starting rotation, a great bullpen,” Judge said of Cleveland’s pitching. “They got nasty stuff down there.”

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