Yesterday, bottom of the 4th, two-out, runners on first and third, and here comes the leviathan, Aaron Judge, big as Paul Bunyan. Moments earlier, Matt Holliday doubled, and magical forest nymph Chris Carter legged out an infield hit. I ejaculate from the couch to assume a Level III Offensive Juju Attack Position: Legs wide, knees bent, hands free, balls hanging - eyeing the TV like a cobra facing a mongoose. It could have been the regular season: That's how badly I wanted it.
Judge takes two balls, then starts fouling off pitches. He scavenges a 10-pitch walk - displaying the guile of Bill Belichick over a span of time in which the lords of baseball - under their new rules - could have intentionally walked 10 batters. He succeeded. Victory. But that's not the story here. What concerns me is the Pirates' strategy.
They went into a full-scale defensive over-shift on Judge: Three fielders on the left side... and then did something weird: They pitched him outside. Pitch after pitch - trying to paint the outside corner.
WTF? You position your defense to the left side, then pitch him to hit to the right? They left a hole at 2B the size of North Carolina. All Judge needed to do was tap a bouncer past the pitcher, and it would roll to the outfield - an easy single and an RBI. The YES announcers noted this. Everybody in the park saw it. Ball after ball - thrown to the outside of the plate, daring Judge to slap at it.
He didn't take the dare. And don't get me wrong here: Judge battled and worked a tough walk - a quality at bat. But I wonder what the Pirates were thinking, and here is my best guess: They figure he's a dead pull hitter who cannot put the ball to right field, and if they pitch him away, he'll just hit grounders to short.
Well, yesterday, they were wrong. Judge won the battle. His walk filled the bases, and a run scored on a wild pitch. It looked as though he was trying to hit to right - but he couldn't keep it in play. And after watching that one AB, it's more clear than ever that Judge's success or failure this year will strictly be mental - not a matter of his vast physical attributes. He has power to hit homers to any part of any park. But if he doesn't use the whole field - and hit balls where they are pitched - it'll be a long, hard year.