By Ernie Palladino
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The inarguable fact is that Aaron Judge has become the face of the Yankees.
But here’s another one: A body is comprised of more than a face. And when you’re talking about these Baby Bombers as they attempt to distance themselves from the rest of the AL East, one should remember that a lot of other parts have gotten involved.
In essence, there’s a lot of good going on besides Judge’s massive, monstrous homers and his dominance over exit velo, the Statcast set’s newest fascination.
For all the exotic numbers the larger-than-life rookie has entered into that web-based pleasure dome for seamheads, recording five of the top six hardest-hit balls in baseball wouldn’t count for much without others helping out.
Let’s also not forget the Triple Crown potential Judge’s league lead in batting average (.347), homers (22) and barely runner-up status with 49 RBI has generated doesn’t happen without others reaching base.
And those leads Judge’s blasts afford wouldn’t stand up if not for a pitching resurgence that has solidified what was once a shaky rotation.
In other words, a lot of good has come from a lot of different people in helping Joe Girardi’s crew build a 38-24 record, trailing only the 44-22 Astros in the American League and leading the Red Sox by three games in the East.
Even Masahiro Tanaka had finally gotten into the act. After a 2 1/2-month struggle, his 6 2/3-inning, one-earned-run performance Monday night in Anaheim indicated he might have turned a corner. He might even have come away with a win, in fact, had Judge not set up a tying hit with a throwing error.
Decision or not, Tanaka’s four-hit effort, highlighted by eight strikeouts against just two walks, put him in the company of fellow starters CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino and, yes, even Jordan Montgomery in win worthiness.
Hitting? It’s been more than Judge.
The 5-3 win over the Angels broke a five-game streak in which the offense scored at least eight runs and a four-game streak in which the lineup produced three homers.
After all, a team that hands Baltimore 16-3 and 14-3 beatings over the weekend doesn’t do that off one player alone.
Gary Sanchez, acknowledged now as so ideal a complement to Judge that pundits have coupled their names with Mantle and Maris, has made himself a home in the No. 6 hole. Since his placement there at the beginning of the streak, he has slashed at .429/.478/1.095 with nine runs, two doubles, four homers and 13 RBI.
Elder statesman Matt Holliday had reached safely in 14 straight games since May 30, hitting .321 over that stretch with four homers and 14 RBIs. Starlin Castro banged three homers in three days against Baltimore. Aaron Hicks continues to keep highly prized prospect Clint Frazier in the minors because there’s just nowhere to put him in the outfield, even as Jacoby Ellsbury fights off the effects of a concussion on the DL.
Judge isn’t the only one with double-figure home runs. Castro, Hicks, Holliday, Sanchez and Brett Gardner have done that, too — though their totals together wouldn’t match the mileage Judge puts on his clouts.
Then again, they all count, whether they go 495 or barely clear the fence.
Judge is clearly the face of the Yanks. He has earned that with his Ruthian power and his humble, team-first attitude.
But it is true that a lot of others are generating excitement, too.
Especially at this high point, the Yanks have become the sum of their pinstripes.
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