Until New York Yankees captain and centerpiece Aaron Judge returns from his mysterious toe injury, nights like Tuesday at Citi Field will probably be few and far between. It takes a special type of starter to ignite this undermanned offense. You know, some slop merchant like Max Scherzer.
Down 5-1 in the opening game of this season's Subway Series, DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Volpe, and Bloopin' Jake Bauers punched back in a contest the Yankees ultimately won thanks to a Josh Donaldson sacrifice fly and a Clay Holmes Houdini job.
Still, it seems safe to say that a lineup that averaged three runs per game in the preceding contests without Judge probably didn't flip a long-term switch into dominance, a theory echoed by David Cone on Wednesday's episode of Jomboy Media's "Toeing The Slab" podcast.
When asked how he'd feel when presented with the Yankees' Judge-less lineup, Cone couldn't help but lick his lips as a former pitcher.
Yankees lineup without Aaron Judge walk in the park for David Cone
Yeah, probably even at this age. Bummer for Scherzer that he was unable to take advantage. Some people are just built different.
When asked how he'd attack the undermanned group, Cone stated, "You kind of start to smell blood a little bit. You get much more aggressive as a pitcher. Guys are swinging and missing more, guys are starting to feel it, you can take advantage of them and try to expand the zone quickly."
The righty cited Giancarlo Stanton as the lone bonafide in the lineup at the moment, a scary thought (especially considering he, too, is coming off an IL trip and is working his way back to relevance). Beyond the hulking slugger, though, the Yankees' current attack is made up of surprising overperformers, who Cone believes can still be baited with breaking balls off the plate. There's been a sense of desperation with this Yankees lineup lately, and while Billy McKinney has navigated playing with his hair on fire nicely, it's not a beneficial quality for most hitters (remember Jose Trevino swinging out of his shoes in extras on Sunday night?).
Until threats like Volpe can consistently prove they're able to stay within themselves, and veterans like LeMahieu and Donaldson can show they aren't to be trifled with, expect plenty of clean innings and strike zone expansion from hungry veteran pitchers.