Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Everyone says the kids are alright, that the struggles of these playoffs haven't turned Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge tight. There's yet to be any real proof -- a few decent press conference quotes hardly qualifies as that -- but the Yankees better be right about their two young stars.
Because whatever hope New York has of remaining relevant in the AL Championship Series against the Astros probably hinges on Judge and Sanchez having an impact on the series, starting in Game 3 in the Bronx on Monday night. Maybe even more so than CC Sabathia, who is starting against the Astros' Charlie Morton.
Both Judge and Sanchez have struggled mightily and are a combined 1-for-14 with eight strikeouts in the series, which the Yankees trail two games to none after consecutive 2-1 losses in Houston.
It's not just their offense, either. Both players were part of the play on Jose Altuve's mad dash to score the winning run Saturday. Judge fielded the ball -- you decide whether he was the start of a chain of events that devolved into the Houston run or just a bystander -- and Sanchez did not corral Didi Gregorius' relay throw on the play. Had Sanchez caught the ball, Altuve would've been out at the plate.
That's a lot of baggage to carry around. But Judge and Sanchez at least have pinstriped backing.
"These kids, they do a good job of just turning the page," Sabathia, 37, said at a press conference Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
"Just a mature team at a young age. I think we'll be fine."
He was speaking about the team as a whole, but we already know that both can rally after tough times. Witness Judge's slump during the regular season.
Is it maturity? Sabathia was speaking generally again, but he probably has a point when he also said, "I don't know if it's maturity or just being dumb. They don't know, you know?"
The Yankees aren't in "panic mode," according to manager Joe Girardi, and he is so far resisting making any changes in the lineup. He well knows, a few hits here or there, his Yanks could be the ones in command of the series.
Plus, Judge and Sanchez still resonate with opponents as threats. Even with the success his team has had with the pair, here's what Houston manager A.J. Hinch said about them Sunday:
"When Judge swings it's scary. When Sanchez swings, it's scary."
Girardi is buoyed by what he sees in Judge's at-bats. The manager believes Judge has remained patient in spite of all the outs, all the swings and misses and long trudges back to the dugout.
"Gary's chased a little bit more," Girardi said. "But Gary is a guy that we know that can really, really turn around quick and get locked in. And I feel good about that."
With Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander having already pitched, the Yankees have to do some damage against Morton and likely Game 4 starter Brad Peacock. They did have the second-highest scoring offense in baseball this year and led MLB with 241 home runs. And at home, Girardi's club went 51-30 and averaged 5.57 runs per game.
Of course, there's no question the Astros, who scored more runs than any team, think it's time for their offense to break out, too.
If the ALCS suddenly veers into a slugfest in the games in the Bronx, Judge, who hit 52 home runs, and Sanchez, the best hitting catcher in baseball, have to be part of it for the Yankees to survive.
Even if the games remain low scoring, the Yankees need the two pistons in their offense. They've pitched well enough to win games, now it's time for their biggest hitters to help.