Yankees’ offense slipping back to ugly 2023 ways despite Juan Soto’s torrid start

It didn’t get better for Yankees Stadium fans than the pregame, in which they got to say goodbye to John Sterling. That is because, during the game, they said hello again to the team’s 2022-23 offense. 

Juan Soto is currently trying to carry the team by himself while portraying Aaron Judge.

Regarding Judge, his admirers arrived earlier than usual in the hopes of securing a bobblehead doll of him. However, Judge withdrew to the bench to jeers after he struck out for the fourth time in four at-bats in the ninth inning, dropping his average to.179 and his whiff rate to over 28%.

The Yankee offense that isn’t called Soto was once again confused by opposing beginning pitchers and had a lineup full of guys who aren’t only named Judge, but it was still defeated 2-0 by the Rays in 10 innings.

The Yankees have won two of their last six games. In the two victories, their offense was timely rather than the anticipated persistent force. They won a finale last Wednesday at Toronto by scoring four of their six runs in the ninth inning. They won the opener at home Friday night against the Rays by scoring all five runs in the seventh inning.

Runs are runs. But the hope of putting Soto with Judge and adding more lefty heft and Anthonys that were more seasoned (Volpe) and healthier (Rizzo) was to provide a 1-to-9 lineup force for 1-to-9 innings.

Instead, the offensive as a whole is too high in the Venn diagram compared to last season’s slash line of.237/.332/.378 vs. a 2023 line of.227/.304/.397. Judge’s unprecedented 62 home runs in 2022 helped to mask many offensive transgressions, but the eight weeks he missed throughout the season due to a right big toe injury exposed a lineup that was overly dependent on one player.

Even though the Yankees have jumped out to a 14-7 start, that hasn’t always been the case this season. Giancarlo Stanton blasted a few timely home runs, Oswaldo Cabrera surprised everyone, and Volpe got off to a good start. However, Soto has been the only reliable player thus far because he never has a poor at-bat.

On Saturday, he had two of the four Yankee hits, plus lined out to the warning track leading off the ninth in a 0-0 game. He had three of the four hardest-hit balls by the Yankees. Soto was expected to a co-star with Judge in a long lineup that grinded opponents. But too often it is has been Juan Soto and The Pips. Soto leads the Yankees in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging by large margins — if you remove Soto’s .354, the rest of the Yankees are hitting .222.

Aaron Boone decided not to start Gleyber Torres, who was hitting .139 in this last 10 games and had struck out six times in his last two games and was down to .195 for the season. Austin Wells, whose bat was supposed to be his calling card, is down to .091. Trent Grisham, with a rare start, is now 0-for-12 on the season. Rizzo (.232) and Alex Verdugo (.233) have been mostly pop-less. Wells, Grisham, Rizzo and Verdugo were supposed to be key to adding lefty diversity and might beyond Soto.

But Judge because of the size of his talent, contract, track record and, well, size draws the most attention for the offensive downturn. He has two hits in his last 20 at-bats with 12 strikeouts — though one of those hits was a winning single in Toronto. So when he struck out in the ninth against Jason Adam when one Judge-ian blast could have sent 47,629 home happy, he was booed by a segment of the crowd.

Oswaldo Cabrera struck out in a big spot in extras.Robert Sabo for NY Post

Nestor Cortes, who delivered seven shutout innings, admitted not liking the reception considering all that Judge has done for the organization. Judge said, “I have heard worse and would probably be doing the same [booing] in that situation.”

Judge said he feels great and that there are no physical maladies. He said there is not a singular reason for his slow start, mentioning both technical and pitch recognition problems, but mostly stating that, given his reputation, he knows he won’t be given many pitches to work with and that he needs to take advantage of those opportunities, which he hasn’t done thus far. He mentioned not worrying and the extended season. Regarding himself or the entire transgression.

Cortes pitched so brilliantly on Saturday that one Judge blast that went high and far would have meant “The Yankeeeees Wiiiiin” (currently no runs on eight singles in 15 home innings in 2024). Rather, he and the offense without Soto went through another extended stretch of scoreless at-bats. Once more, the lineup fell well short of a Sterling for one that was meant to be exceptional.

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