CLEVELAND (AP) — Aaron Judge has busted out of his fall funk.
Dropped from the leadoff spot to No. 2 in the lineup, New York’s star slugger — and baseball’s home run king — connected for a two-run shot in the third inning of Game 3 of the AL Division series against the Cleveland Guardians.
After striking out for the eighth time in nine at-bats in the first, Judge drove a 2-1 fastball from Triston McKenzie over the wall in center field, tying it at 2. The 449-foot shot was his 12th career postseason homer, and the Yankees can only hope it gets him going this October.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he woke up Saturday morning with the idea of moving Judge out of the leadoff spot.
“I wanted to change that up a little bit,” Boone said.
Judge, who set the AL record with 62 home runs this season and contended for the Triple Crown, struck out four times in New York’s 4-2 loss in 10 innings in Game 2, and got booed at Yankee Stadium.
“Judge has hit a lot of second in his career, and just wanted to shake that up a little bit,” Boone said.
Boone juggled his lineup, dropping Judge as well Anthony Rizzo from No. 2 to No. 3 and Oswaldo Cabrera from six to nine. He also moved Isiah Kiner-Falefa up from seventh to sixth and Harrison Bader from nine to seven.
The Yankees are without a true leadoff hitter with DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi both out with injuries.
“Judge is the most logical leadoff guy with us with no D.J. and no Bennie,” Boone said. “So, that’s as big a thing as anything.”
Judge has had major issues against Cleveland in three postseason series. He entered Game 3 just 2 of 37 with 27 strikeouts in nine games.
But Boone felt Judge was close to getting his swing right, and it looked pretty good on his big swing.
Judge started 34 times in the leadoff spot this season, many of them beginning in mid-September as he chased Roger Maris’ league record of 61 homers.
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