Big inning leads Yankees to Game 4 win, forcing series back to Cleveland
By Bill Ladson
NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge was going to get a clutch hit sooner or later. After all, we are talking about a candidate for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Sure enough, he came through in a big way, delivering a two-run double to cap a four-run second inning in the Yankees' 7-3 win on Monday night over the Indians in Game 4 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan.
Entering Game 4, Judge was 0-for-10 with eight strikeouts and four walks in the ALDS vs. Cleveland. He added another strikeout in his first at-bat against Indians starter Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but it was a different story an inning later.
The Yankees had scored twice in the second when Judge stepped to the plate with runners on second and third and one out. His game plan was to sit on Bauer's fastball. In Game 1 of the series, Judge struck out three times against the right-hander's curveballs.
"Before I step in the box, I try to have a solid plan," Judge said. "My plan was stay on the heater … especially a guy like Bauer, who has good stuff. He's going to come after you. I just tried to stick with my approach of trying to get a heater over the plate."
It looked like Judge was going to strike out again. He fell behind, 0-2, before working a full count and ripping a double to left field, scoring Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner to cap the four-run frame.
"That was huge, especially having Bauer on the ropes there. You have to knock in those runs to get him out of the game," Judge said. "I just had to grind it out. The team needed a couple of runs, just trying to stick in there. I fought off some tough pitches, and I got a fastball up and in and put it in play."
Although he had the big hit, Judge is still struggling in the series, finishing the game 1-for-5 with four more strikeouts. He's had two four-strikeout games in the series, joining Marquis Grissom (1997), Bobby Bonilla ('96), Reggie Sanders ('95) and Jerry Reuss ('81). Judge also has 12 K's in the series, the most by a Yanks player in a postseason series. However, he doesn't seem to be worried about striking out so much.
"I'm not getting those mistakes, when they throw it over the middle of the plate," Judge said. "I've got to do damage, and I haven't been able to do that. It's been a grind, but we keep winning and that's the most important thing."
The Yankees are headed back to Cleveland for Game 5 on Wednesday night, with CC Sabathia facing Corey Kluber. A victory would mean a trip to the AL Championship Series presented by Camping World, New York's first since 2012, and a meeting with Houston.
"We know what type of team we have here," Judge said. "We're a team that battles and keeps fighting. We never waver no matter what the situation or where we're at in the season. We're just going to keep battling."
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.