Bronx, NY – The Aaron Judge show in quest to surpass the AL season home run record of 61 moves on to Texas for the Yankees final four games of the season. Judge is vying also to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera in 2012.
The Yankees, though, failed to win their 98th game of the season in the Bronx Sunday afternoon as the Orioles took two of three with their 3-1 win, a vastly improved team in Baltimore that will finish with a record over .500, their 82nd win of the season.
So the Aaron Judge home run watch is over in the Bronx. But the Yankees, playing out the string, have multiple decisions in the next week pertaining to who will comprise their postseason roster when the best-of-five AL Division Series commences at the Stadium next Tuesday evening.
Once again, manager Aaron Boone was edged by the corner of the Yankees dugout and observed the at-bats. He took note of starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez, a minor league call-up who basically was a fill-in to set up a rotation for the final series against the Rangers.
After Judge went 0-for-3, striking out three times, thus putting a hold on the record, and when Rodriguez was lifted after 4.2 innings, including striking out the side in the first inning, the bullpen was an emphasis.
A Yankees bullpen that remains with many questions and concerns after another Aroldis Chapman disappointment, and a recurring shin injury that removed right-hander Ron Marinaccio from the game in the eighth inning.
Yes, concerns for a Yankees bullpen that continues to find themselves and also includes the all important closer role that once had Chapman in command.
But, Chapman no longer has the command that once billed him as an elite closer, after two respectable outings this week out of the pen in situations that Aaron Boone said he had to earn.
Chapman recorded the loss after walking in the go-ahead run with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. At this juncture, does Chapman have a role on the postseason roster out of the bullpen?
“I don’t take those decisions,” Chapman said through a translator when asked about his bullpen role. But there is a sense the Yankees will make that final decision in the next few games as Chapman is certain to get more looks against the Rangers.
Boone said, regarding Chapman, not disclosing any bullpen plan “Didn’t feel he lost the zone.” But give a take a pitch, Chapman was not close on many pitches and has walked 28 in 35-⅓ innings which leads to an assumption his postseason chances are very slim.
Regardless, with injuries to closer Clay Holmes, with Wandy Peralta working his way back, and with the status of Miguel Castro still uncertain, both on the injured list, Chapman could earn a reprieve as the Yankees need arms down in the pen for a best-of-five series.
And if Marinaccio is unavailable, a shin injury that has been lingering, that puts more of a burden on the Yankees bullpen.
So as the last regular season home game played out, as the Yankees said goodbye to the Bronx until next week, the other piece of business is this home run record chase of Aaron Judge that has everyone out of their seats and waiting to witness baseball history.
“It’d be nice to hit it at home and do something special like that for the home fans, but at the end of the day, I’ve got a job to do,” Judge said. “I’ve got to get ready for the postseason.”
He said the home run didn’t or happen at Yankee Stadium and emphasized again the milestone could happen in Texas. And all along this ride, Judge has made it known this is not about him and more about the Yankees continued quest to win a World Series.
After Judge left the Yankees clubhouse, he was spotted down the corridor a few footsteps away from the Orioles visitor’s clubhouse in uniform talking to a longtime friend. Handshakes and good luck wishes came from the media ready to file deadline stories about his home run quest and the Yankees bullpen issues.
Judge said thank you, well after the boos came from another sellout crowd in the Bronx because Orioles pitchers once again threw sliders and sinkers. Judge never got a look at a good fastball to break the record.
Judge is 1-for-7, six strikeouts, five walks, and hit by a pitch since hitting home run 61 against the Blue Jays Wednesday evening in the Bronx.
“A lot of things have to sync up for even the greatest of the great to go deep,” is how Boone responded. But there are more immediate concerns for the Yankees and their manager. It revolves around that bullpen.
Aroldis Chapman has a few more games to make an impression. He is needed for a Yankees bullpen at the most important time of the year.
Rich Mancuso is a senior writer @Latinosports.com. Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.
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