Pinch-hitter Aaron Judge comes up clutch for Yankees: 'I was watching the whole game locked in'

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Aaron Judge follows through on swing grey uniform Texas
Aaron Judge follows through on swing grey uniform Texas

As one of the game’s best young superstars, Aaron Judge isn’t used to coming off the bench. Quite simply, when he’s healthy enough to play, he’s almost always going to be in the starting lineup.

Perhaps since he’s been used a pinch-hitter so rarely in his career, his numbers in those scenarios coming into Thursday’s game were not very good. Judge was previously 0-for-10 as a pinch-hitter with seven strikeouts and three walks.

But Judge was called upon in a big spot on Thursday afternoon against the Texas Rangers, and he delivered with an RBI single up the middle in the seventh inning, making it a 2-0 game, which proved to be the final score.

“I felt great. I was watching the whole game locked in,” Judge said afterwards. “Just kind of got my pregame routine in... and I think the biggest thing was just trying to stay aggressive in that situation. I think sometimes as a pinch-hitter I get up there and I want to see a pitch or I’m thinking about a plan, and then all of a sudden you miss your pitches to hit. So, I was just going up there and stay aggressive, have an aggressive mindset. The first two pitches were balls, but stayed aggressive and I was able to shoot something into center.

Both Judge and Gio Urshela delivered pinch-hit RBI for the Yankees in the seventh inning, and those two runs proved to be all that Domingo German and the bullpen needed.

“Kind of knew that was potentially a lane where obviously if we were in a close ballgame, that would be a spot where we would shoot those guys,” manager Aaron Boone explained. “But credit to them, ready to go. Both Gio and AJ both knew the situation coming up, prepared for it, go up and have really good at-bats to be the difference in the game today.”

With Thursday’s win, the Yankees completed a rollercoaster road trip that included a COVID outbreak which left them shorthanded on the field and in their coaching staff as well as a Corey Kluber no-hitter in his return to Arlington.

But through the ups and downs, the Yankees stayed even-keeled and ended up going 7-3 on the road trip as they now prepare to head home to the Bronx to take on the Chicago White Sox this weekend.

“A lot of distractions, a lot of setbacks, a lot of highs, a lot of lows, I guess you could put it as simple as a grind. This is baseball. Things like this happen,” Judge said. “Throughout the years you’re going to have things come up, if it’s family issues, off the field problems, in the clubhouse problems, but with this group, when we show up here and we get in this clubhouse, it’s time to go to work.

“I think that’s what makes playing here in New York so special, just the type of chemistry we have, the type of players we bring in. They’ve got one goal, one thing on their mind, and it’s to win. All of the other stuff kind of gets thrown out the window when they show up here. With all the stuff going on, losing coaches, losing teammates, it just comes down to us wanting to win.”