Aaron Judge’s heroics vs. Twins fuel Yankees’ historic series sweep not seen since ’99

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday, April 27, 2024, in Milwaukee.

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All Rise of the Yankees is confirmed with captain Aaron Judge‘s thunderous bat vanquishing the Twins and catalyzing a series sweep that is only compared to the Bombers’ feat in the 1999 ALDS.

Clarke Schimdt’s dominant pitching performance during the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins was complemented by encouraging signs from their lineup. Key contributors included Aaron Judge, who continued his impressive hitting streak, Gleyber Torres, who showed indications of breaking out of his extended slump, and Anthony Volpe, who rediscovered his early-season form.

In Thursday’s 5-0 victory over the Twins at Target Field, the trio accounted for six of the Yankees’ nine hits. Volpe set the tone by leading off the game with a home run, extending his hitting streak to nine games. During this stretch, Volpe has been a consistent force at the plate, belting three homers, driving in 10 runs, and recording multiple hits in four games. Despite the ups and downs of his rookie campaign, Volpe’s current slash line stands at an impressive .273/.348/.432, accompanied by six home runs and nine stolen bases across 199 plate appearances.

Following his remarkable four-hit performance the previous day, which included three doubles and a home run, Aaron Judge maintained his hot streak. After drawing a walk in the first inning, Aaron Judge laced a double in his next at-bat and launched a deep fly ball to center field in his third plate appearance. In the seventh inning, Aaron Judge added another double off the left-center field fence, marking his sixth extra-base hit in the last two games, a career-best achievement.

The resurgence of Gleyber Torres, who has been mired in a prolonged slump, provided additional optimism for the Yankees. His contributions, along with the consistent production from Aaron Judge and the renewed spark from Volpe, have bolstered the team’s offensive prowess. As the Yankees continue their pursuit of success, the collective efforts of their pitching staff and the timely contributions from key players in the lineup have been instrumental in their recent victories.

Yankees sweep Twins behind Aaron Judge’s might

Aaron Judge’s offensive prowess has been on full display over his past nine plate appearances, showcasing his ability to impact the game in various ways. He has launched a Statcast-projected 467-foot home run, laced five doubles, and drawn two walks, with his only out coming on a deep drive that Twins outfielder Manny Margot caught while crashing into the center-field fence.

X/New York Yankees

Gleyber Torres also made significant contributions to the Yankees’ offensive resurgence during Thursday’s game. He roped a pair of doubles, one of which benefited from left fielder Alex Kirilloff’s misplay on the warning track. This marked Torres’ first multi-extra-base-hit game since last September.

Following a 5-for-36 (.138) slump from April 29 to May 11, Torres has rebounded, going 6-for-16 (.375) and scoring four runs over his last four games. In the series against the Twins, Torres went 5-for-12 with a walk, including a clutch three-run homer in Sunday’s game against the Rays. On Thursday, he clubbed two doubles off Joe Ryan, bringing his season total to six through 187 plate appearances.

The Yankees’ dominance over the Twins continues, as they boast an impressive 120-44 record (including playoffs) against them since 2002, the best record by any team in the Majors against an opponent in its league. More importantly for this season, the Yankees have won or split 12 of their first 14 series, thanks to timely hitting, solid fielding, and the second-best ERA (2.91) in the Major Leagues.

Boone expressed his encouragement in seeing Gleyber swinging the bat as everyone knew he was capable of. He noted that when Gleyber starts hitting like that, it adds significant depth to their already potent lineup.

The New York Yankees’ dominance over the Minnesota Twins reached new heights on Wednesday night as they secured a 4-0 victory at Target Field. This win further solidified the Yankees’ astounding record against the Twins, which now stands at 119-44 since 2002, including postseason games. To put this into perspective, the Yankees have been winning at a 118-win pace across 162 games when facing the Twins. The Yankees will look to complete a three-game sweep on Thursday afternoon.

With Thursday’s win, they clinched another milestone. Since the 1999 ALDS, it is their only series in the last 25 years when “the Yankees held an opponent to one run or fewer in a three-game series.”

As the Yankees continue their pursuit of success, the resurgence of key players like Aaron Judge and Torres, along with the team’s overall performance, bodes well for their prospects moving forward.

A Two-Week Turnaround for Yankees Slugger

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge hits a home run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Minneapolis.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone praised Aaron Judge’s exceptional performance, noting that he had witnessed many remarkable feats from the slugger over the past six or seven years. Boone emphasized the Yankees slugger’s current form, highlighting his ability to swing the bat effectively and see the ball exceptionally well. He pointed out that during this road trip, Aaron Judge had not only achieved successful results but also hit several balls to the fence that were caught by the defense. Boone commended his captain’s consistent hard contact and his ability to capitalize on pitches thrown his way.

“I’ve seen him do a lot of great things the last six-seven years, but the way he’s swinging the bat right now and seeing the ball [is impressive],” manager Aaron Boone said. “This trip alone, obviously he had the results and success, but he probably hit another five-six balls to the fence that were caught. Just seeing it and not missing when they do make a pitch to him.”

In Game 2 of the series, Aaron Judge stole the show on offense, becoming the first player this season to record four extra-base hits in a single game. His offensive outburst included a mammoth 467-foot home run that landed in the third deck, along with three doubles. He had an opportunity to add a fifth extra-base hit in the ninth inning but settled for a walk instead.

Remarkably, Aaron Judge’s four-extra-base-hit performance was not a first for him. He accomplished the same feat last year on September 22 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting three homers and a double. With this latest achievement, Aaron Judge joins an elite group of Yankees legends—Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth—as the only players in franchise history to have multiple games with four extra-base hits.

When asked about his current form at the plate, Aaron Judge humbly stated that he’s getting there but hasn’t quite reached his peak yet. He expressed hope that he would have achieved his desired level of performance by the time they had this conversation in November.

It’s worth noting that not too long ago, his struggles at the plate had become a significant talking point, to the extent that manager Aaron Boone was asked about a potential lineup change. While Boone’s response likely would have involved swapping Aaron Judge and Juan Soto in the No. 2-3 spots rather than demoting Judge down the order, the slugger’s slow start had become a major topic of discussion.

However, Aaron Judge’s recent performance has silenced any doubts about his abilities. In the last seven games, he has gone on a tear hitting .417/.539/1.000 with six hits, three homers, six doubles, and five RBIs. This incredible stretch has propelled his season batting line to .262/.392/.555, and he now ranks fifth in the American League in OPS+.

Aaron Judge’s resurgence serves as a reminder that it’s still relatively early in the season and that he remains one of the most formidable hitters in the game. As the Yankees continue their pursuit of success, his presence in the lineup will undoubtedly play a crucial role in their aspirations.

During Aaron Judge’s early-season struggles, which culminated in him being booed on his own bobblehead day at Yankee Stadium on April 20, several theories circulated about the reasons behind his slump. Some speculated that it could be an irreversible age-related decline, while others wondered if he was uncomfortable being in Juan Soto‘s shadow. However, the most plausible explanation seemed to be that Judge was simply going through a rough patch and still trying to find his timing after missing time in spring training due to an abdominal injury.

The most notable difference between Aaron Judge’s performance now and two weeks ago is his ability to capitalize on hittable pitches. Instead of swinging through them, fouling them off, or hitting infield pop-ups, The Yankees slugger is now making solid contact and driving the ball with authority. Earlier in the season, his infield pop-up rate was alarmingly high, providing strong evidence that his timing was off. However, that rate has now returned to a level closer to his career average.

One key metric that highlights Aaron Judge’s improvement is his sweet-spot rate, which represents the percentage of batted balls in the 8-32 degree launch angle range – the optimal range for line drives and fly balls with the potential to leave the park. Balls hit below 8 degrees typically result in ground balls or low line drives, while those above 32 degrees are more likely to be routine flyouts. Aaron Judge’s increased sweet-spot rate indicates that he is hitting the ball on a line more frequently compared to earlier in the season, a clear sign that he has regained his timing and is making more consistent, high-quality contact.

Aaron Judge has rediscovered his timing and is hitting balls on a line again
Baseball Savant

Aaron Judge’s resurgence at the plate is evident when examining his sweet-spot rate, a metric that quantifies the percentage of batted balls hit within the optimal 8-32-degree launch angle range. Throughout his career, he has consistently been among the top 20% of the league in this category, with a career sweet-spot rate of 39.4%, well above the MLB average of around 33%. While his overall sweet-spot rate this season sits at 37.7%, a closer look reveals a significant improvement from April (35.4%) to May (47.2%). This stark contrast highlights Aaron Judge’s ability to make solid contact and drive the ball with greater frequency in recent weeks compared to his early-season struggles.

Despite Judge’s slow start, the Yankees managed to stay afloat thanks to the exceptional performance of Juan Soto, an early favorite for the AL MVP award, and the outstanding pitching staff, even in the absence of ace Gerrit Cole. However, it is crucial to recognize that Aaron Judge is the driving force behind the Yankees’ success. Without him performing at an elite level, the team’s chances of securing a division title or making a deep postseason run would be severely diminished.

April was the worst month of Aaron Judge’s career by OPS when considering months with at least 120 plate appearances. Nonetheless, he wasn’t striking out at an alarming rate and still showcased exit velocities that few in the game could match. While his production was lacking, Aaron Judge was not overmatched at the plate. Now, with his timing and pitch recognition seemingly back on track, he poses a formidable threat every time he steps into the batter’s box, capable of launching balls off the scoreboard.

Manager Aaron Boone acknowledged the challenges of hitting, even for the game’s greatest players, noting that even MVP winners experience highs and lows. Boone emphasized the importance of timing, pitch recognition, and swing execution, all of which Aaron Judge has excelled at over the past couple of weeks. As the Yankees continue their pursuit of success, his return to form will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in their aspirations.

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