TORONTO — That season-high nine-game winning streak that ended on Friday night when the Yankees’ lost to the Blue Jays 8-2 at Rogers Centre was built on home runs.
Just one of those 28 homers, however, was hit by Aaron Judge, the name in the Yankees’ lineup most associated with hitting home runs.
Giancarlo Stanton (knee) and Gary Sanchez (groin) didn’t participate in any of the nine games. Ditto Luke Voit. Edwin Encarnacion played in three, didn’t homer and went on the IL. Aaron Hicks appeared in one game and vanished.
In addition, Judge drove in one of the 78 runs the Yankees scored in those previous nine games before Friday’s loss and hit .242 (8-for-33) with two doubles.
Considering how many big Yankees names have landed on the IL this season, and not seeing Judge’s name in Aaron Boone’s lineup card posted on the clubhouse wall late Friday afternoon, the right fielder was asked if there was health issue involved.
“Everything is good. It was either going to be today or [another day],’’ Judge said of getting rested. It turned out Judge was unable to get a full rest as Brett Gardner was ejected by umpire Chris Segal for a transgression he didn’t commit. Not only did Judge have to play, he went 0-for-2.
Sitting in the Yankees’ dugout Friday afternoon, Boone didn’t sound like a manager worried that his biggest power source had hit one homer and driven in one run since July 31.
“He hit two balls to the fence and had a good 3-0 swing he fouled back,’’ Boone said of Judge’s game Thursday night, when he went 0-for-5 and was hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position. “Sometimes, especially with great players and great hitters, they are a little bit off. Just miss a ball and foul a pitch off, that’s all.’’
Of course, had the Yankees been struggling going into Friday, a lot more attention would have been paid to Judge, who Boone predicted is ready to go off.
“Aaron Judge is a matter of time where he locks in and goes through a stretch where he really carries us,’’ Boone said of his second-place hitter, whose average has fallen from .297 on July 20 to .274 entering Friday. “Fortunately, guys have stepped up.’’
According to Boone, Judge is in the hitting lab and moving toward a stretch in which he will join the home run party the Yankees are throwing nightly.
“There is some stuff that he is working on,’’ Boone said. “Long term he will be the beast. I know he is going through a rough stretch. He will get hot again. He is a tick away.’’
Eventually, the Yankees are going to need Judge’s power because Gio Urshela and Mike Tauchman, who each hit five homers in the winning streak, will cool off.
Judge, who is hitting .264 (39-for-148) with seven homers and 19 RBIs since June 21 after missing two months with a lefty oblique problem, shouldn’t be the only power bat the Yankees welcome back.
Sanchez came off the IL on Saturday and is expected to be the regular catcher. He has been out since July 24 with a strained left groin, but prior to going on the shelf, Sanchez was in a horrific slump.
In 21 games (20 starts) leading into his IL stint, the All-Star catcher was 10-for-85 (.118) with one homer, six RBIs and a .370 OPS. The Yankees sent Kyle Higashioka back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for Sanchez.
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