It’s only been nine games, but the Yankees will head into Wednesday’s doubleheader with the best record in the majors (8-1) and their two biggest sluggers showing — for now — that they can stay healthy.
Both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have started each game of the young season and Judge has felt good enough to hit six homers and drive in 14 runs. Stanton has four extra-base hits and even added a stolen base.
It’s no doubt the production general manager Brian Cashman envisioned when he traded for Stanton in December 2017. And it’s also why Judge famously green-lighted the trade with the Marlins when Cashman went to the right fielder to get his approval.
“I said, ‘Go get him,’” Judge said after the trade. “An MVP-caliber player on our team? Let’s do it.”
The two combined for 65 homers in their first season as teammates, but Judge was limited to 112 games due to a fractured right wrist. And a year ago, they hit 30, with Judge playing 102 games because of an oblique injury and Stanton hit only three homers in 18 games, bothered first by a strained biceps and then a sprained right knee.
Now that they’re in the lineup and feeling good, the results have been immediate.
“I’ve got DJ LeMahieu in front of me and I’ve got Gleyber Torres and big Stanton behind me,’’ Judge said. “Stanton’s hitting .400, I feel like, and hitting rockets all over the field.”
Stanton does have an on-base percentage of .472, thanks in part to seven walks. It’s helped make up for the lackluster starts from Torres and even more so, Gary Sanchez.
The combination of Judge and Stanton finally being in good form together seemed unlikely even heading into spring training 2.0. By then, Stanton had recovered from the calf strain he suffered during the initial spring training, but there were questions about how long it would take Judge to find his swing. Judge had missed time with a fractured rib and punctured lung stemming from a diving play in the outfield last September. He also dealt with a stiff neck during spring training 2.0.
Judge has proven that’s no longer an issue, while Stanton seems to be reaping the benefits of his recent weight loss.
Their teammates have taken notice of the fast starts.
“Our superstars are sort of being superstars,’’ J.A. Happ said. “That’s fun to watch. We’re a dangerous team when that happens. We don’t feel like we’re out of any game.”
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The challenge will be keeping them both upright, although manager Aaron Boone and Cashman have often pointed out that Stanton played 158 games in his first year with the Yankees and was only really hobbled by injuries last season.
Still, both have dealt with a myriad of health issues in recent years and the impact of a compact schedule could make it difficult.
For now, though, they are making the most of the situation — including acting as hitting coaches for one another.
Judge praised Stanton for pointing out how Judge could attack breaking balls better after the two chatted after a recent game — something that’s even more important with in-game video banned.
“It’s like we’re back in travel ball days,’’ Judge said. “Communication with teammates and the hitting coach is even more important.”