Aaron Judge drilled a two-run home run in the first to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead over Shane Bieber.
Even though the playoff baseball we’re used to features hit-and-runs, bunts, and single streaks, it’s much easier to put runs on the board via ambushing an ace early and trying to hit dingers.
And though Judge had been mostly a singles hitter in the few weeks following his activation from the IL after battling back a recurring calf issue, he saw a fastball over the plate to his liking and gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead just two batters into their postseason opener.
Don’t ignore DJ LeMahieu, either, who set the table, as he always does.
We missed Judge’s power, and spent most of the season’s final weeks bemoaning the disappearance of his stroke, as well as the slow-to-start rhythm issues that he and Giancarlo Stanton were experiencing, post-rehab.
But just like that, Judge’s lightning-quick bat appears to be back, ambushing the very first Bieber offering after LeMahieu went ball-ball-oppo single, Derek Jeter-style.
And, just like that, a team that backed into the postseason suddenly sent Gerrit Cole to the mound with a two-run lead. Guess Bieber isn’t quite impenetrable after all.
The bottom of the inning quelled a lot of worries (worries? really?) about Cole’s readiness, too — he whiffed Francisco Lindor and Cesar Hernandez before retiring Jose Ramirez on an infield popup. Utilizing everything in his arsenal, Cole looked well-rounded.
The two American League teams that looked the roughest heading into October were the skidding White Sox and the sleepy Yankees.
In the early game, the Sox slugged behind a near-no-hitter from Lucas Giolito, and sent the Oakland A’s packing into Deficit Mode.
New York hopes to make the same first impression after a borderline lifeless past few weeks. Can they flip the switch, just like that?
Can Judge’s bat speed recover with little to no warning? Guess there’s a chance.