Aaron Judge Returns to New York Yankees After Missing 42 Games

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Aaron Judge sat out 42 games with a toe injury, and last year’s American League MVP returned to the New York Yankees for the first time since early June.

New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, seen here in action against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, returned to the team after missing a quarter of the season with a toe injury. (Image: AP)

Judge sustained a right toe injury when he ran into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. He tore a ligament in his big toe, but decided to avoid season-ending surgery.

The Yankees listed Judge as out indefinitely, but he made big strides in the last two weeks while rehabbing his injury. Judge returned to the slumping Yankees for a decisive three-game weekend series against the first-place Baltimore Orioles.

I want to be there when times are tough,” said Judge.

Judge might not be 100% healthy, but he knows the Yankees need an offensive boost. The Yankees fired hitting coach Dillon Lawson prior to the All-Star Break, but team is only 5-7 since the hired Sean Casey as their new hitting coach.

Yankees Tailspin Without Judge

The atmosphere at Camden Yards in Baltimore last night had a playoff vibe, and no shortage of Yankees fans in attendance. The Orioles won a  classic pitchers’ duel, 1-0, thanks to a walk-off home run by Anthony Santander.

The Yankees sent their ace, Gerrit Cole, to the mound and he scattered three hits in seven innings. The bullpen yielded just one other hit, but that was Santander’s game-winning home run.

Even with Judge back in the lineup, the hitting woes continued. The Orioles limited the Yankees to four hits, and five pitchers combined for a shutout. Judge walked three times, and went 0-1 in his only official at bat.

The discipline tonight by Judge, it’s a true sign of a great hitter,” said Cole. “Heightened awareness of the strike zone. So disciplined with what he wants to swing at and what he doesn’t want to swing at. He’s obviously a tone setter for us.”

The Yankees scored just ten runs in their last five losses. Without Judge for the last 42 games, the middle of the lineup suffered. Giancarlo Stanton (.196) had a recent power surge, but he’s hitting below the Mendoza Line. Veterans DJ LeMahieu (.234) and Anthony Rizzo (.246) also struggled. LeMahieu won batting titles in both the AL and NL, and he looks completely lost at the plate.

How bad are the Yankees right now? The so-called Bronx Bombers have the second-worst batting average in baseball at .229. In historic terms, the 2023 Yankees are tied with the 1914 Yankees for the third-lowest batting average in team history. Only the 1967 and 1968 squads had a lower team batting average, and they’re considered two of the worst teams in franchise history.

Crowded AL Wild Card Bubble

The Baltimore Orioles (63-40), Texas Rangers (60-44), and Minnesota Twins (54-41) would win division titles if the season ended today.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays (63-43), Toronto Blue Jays (58-46), and defending champion Houston Astros (58-46) would secure AL Wild Card spots.

The Yankees are 3.5 games back in the AL Wild Card standings, and they’re one of four bubble teams with the Boston Red Sox (1.5 games back), Los Angeles Angels (4 games back), and Seattle Mariners (4.5 games back).

The Yankees are five games over .500, but they happen to play in the toughest division in baseball. All five teams in the AL East have a winning record, and there’s a scenario in which three of those teams could qualify for the AL Wild Card. If that’s the case, then four AL East teams could advance to the postseason.

The Yankees can forget about the notion of All-Star Shohei Ohtani as their savior. The Angeles said they are not going to trade Ohtani, who is in the last year of his contract with no guarantees that he will re-sign. The Angels are buyers at the trade deadline and not sellers, so the Yankees cannot add Ohtani in a trade as a quick fix for their hitting woes.

The trade deadline is Tuesday, and General manager Brian Cashman is actively shopping for a leftfielder, but it’s doubtful the San Diego Padres will part ways with Juan Soto.

The Yankees are also interested in Jeimer Candelario, third baseman from the Washington Nationals, to replace Josh Donaldson. Donaldson is out for the rest of the season with a high-grade calf strain.

With injuries to their starting pitchers, including the delayed debut of Carlos Rodon, the Yankees could also add a couple of veteran hurlers.

Judge Returns, No Boost in Futures Market

The Yankees (54-49) find themselves in last place in the AL East, and nine games out of first place behind the Orioles.

The Orioles caught the Rays, who jumped out to a 13-0 start this the season and were 20-3 at one point. The Rays struggled this July, but they’re now 1.5-games behind the surging Orioles.

The Blue Jays occupy third place, and they’re 5.5 games out of first place.

The Red Sox (56-47) are in fourth place, but seven games off the lead and just two games ahead of the Yankees.

Superstitious Yankees fans still have hope that the Bronx Bombers can get hot in August. However, the stat geeks at FanGraphs have a sobering projection. The Yankees have a 28.3% chance to secure a spot in the playoffs, with only a 1.9% chance to win the World Series. The Yankees also have a 2% chance to go from last place to first place and seize the AL East division title.

The futures market at DraftKings also paint a bleak picture. The Yankees are +3500 odds to win the 2023 World Series, and +2000 odds to win the AL pennant. DraftKings listed the last-place Yankees as the underdog on the board at +3000 odds to win the AL East.

The Yankees are now -265 odds to miss the playoffs, according to a prop bet from DraftKings. They’re +220 odds to pull off a late-season rally and secure a playoff berth. The Yankees cannot waste any more time with 59 games remaining.

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