‘I’ve heard worse’: Judge booed after 4 strikeouts

MLB

NEW YORK — Aaron Judge struck out four times in four at-bats in the Yankees2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, and he heard it from the home crowd.

The former MVP was booed at Yankee Stadium after striking out on four pitches in the ninth inning with the game scoreless. The four-strikeout performance prolonged a slow start for Judge, who is batting .179 with a .682 on-base plus slugging percentage in 21 games this season.

“I’ve heard worse,” Judge said, “and I’d probably be doing the same thing in this situation.”

Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortes, who tossed seven scoreless innings Saturday, called the fans’ boos “disappointing.”

“I feel like he’s done a lot for this team, a lot for this organization,” Cortes said. “He’s going to come out [of this]. It’s just a matter of time. This team is way too good to have a lot of games like today. He’s going to come around. He’s going to be Aaron Judge, obviously. It’s just a matter of time.”

Judge, 32, acknowledged before spring training that the toe injury he suffered last season will require “constant maintenance” for the remainder of his career. He then missed time during spring training with an abdominal injury. But he insisted Saturday that he feels “great” physically. The slugger, two seasons removed from clubbing 62 home runs in an MVP campaign, has started every one of the Yankees’ 21 games — 16 games in center field and five as the designated hitter.

Instead, he said his struggles stem from being too aggressive on balls out of the zone and missing pitches over the plate.

“It’s still early,” Judge said. “It’s a long season. Just missing the pitch. Get a pitch in the zone, I got to capitalize on it because I don’t get too many. And then I get hits. I think that’s what it comes down to. Just don’t miss your pitch when you get it and take your walks when you can, not getting anything.”

Judge’s 27 strikeouts this season were tied for second in the American League after Saturday’s loss. And yet his 17 walks were the second most in the majors.

“It’s hitting, man,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ll be here next year talking about a great player that’s in a little funk. And we’re in April. It happens all the time with greatness. Every year. And we’ll scratch our heads and then you look up in a few weeks and Aaron Judge is Aaron Judge.”

Without Judge producing at his usual clip, the Yankees are 11-1 when they score at least five runs this season. They have yet to tally double-digit runs in a game.

For now, Juan Soto is serving as the club’s offensive engine, delighting fans with his exploits and swagger in his first month with the team. On Friday, Soto, hitting in front of Judge in the lineup, delivered a back-breaking three-run home run to ignite a frenzy in a win in The Bronx. A day later, Judge was hearing the other end in a loss.

“It’s New York. Obviously, they expect a lot from us,” Cortes said. “We expect a lot from each other in this clubhouse. So we just want to go out there and do the best we can every time. It’s not like we’re not trying to score runs or we’re not trying to pitch well. So, like I said, it’s just a matter of time for us.”

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