HOUSTON — Let bygones, be bygones? Not for Aaron Judge.
The All-Star outfielder hit his 21st home run of the season against Zack Greinke Saturday night, which was the only run scored by the New York Yankees in their 1-0 win over the Houston Astros in what was a masterful nine-inning shutout by Gerrit Cole.
As Judge rounded third base, he seemed to take a shot at 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve. Judge briefly held his jersey and seemed to imitate Altuve gesturing to his teammates to not rip off his shirt after his pennant-winning, walk-off homer in the 2019 American League Championship Series.
Altuve purported that a bad tattoo on his collarbone was the reason why the Astros All-Star second baseman did not want his jersey ripped off.
Video replay of Altuve agitatedly motioning to his jersey and shaking his head and finger in a “no” gesture as he rounded third base inspired a debate over whether the Astros were cheating by using buzzers under their jerseys which would let them know what pitch was coming.
“Whenever they keep the roof closed here, it’s pretty chilly. So just letting my team know to button up a little bit,” Judge said, tongue-in-cheek, when asked about whether the gesture was directed towards the opposing team dugout. Teammate Kyle Higashioka, who admitted he did not notice Judge’s gesture, said it was likely just “playful banter.”
An investigation led by Major League Baseball confirmed the Astros had cheated by using a camera-based, sign-stealing system during their 2017 World Series-winning regular season and playoffs, and during part of the 2018 regular season. The investigation detailed that the sign-stealing did not take place in 2019.
Judge was one of the many players that did not mince words when addressing the Astros sign-stealing scandal last year, saying the team should vacate the title and that players should have been punished. Judge also said he believes that the sign-stealing scheme had a direct impact on the 2017 ALCS, which the Yankees lost to Houston in seven games.
Altuve and Judge were both selected as starters for the 2021 All-Star Game. Altuve decided not to play in the Midsummer Classic at Coors Field on Tuesday and will instead remain in Houston to deal with an unspecified left leg injury. Judge is one of three All-Stars for the Yankees this year, alongside Cole and Aroldis Chapman.
Judge’s third-inning home run was all Cole would need after allowing only three hits over nine shutout innings. Cole threw 129 pitches against his former team, a new career high and an MLB season high, and struck out 12 batters. His performance was made all the more impressive by the fact that he had been dealing with an undisclosed illness that severely affected him physically, to the point where he could not keep food down and needed intravenous fluids, leading to his turn in the rotation being questionable at one point.
“It’s probably one of the greatest [performances] I’ve ever seen, certainly in a regular-season setting,” said Boone of Cole’s outing, his first shutout since May 4, 2018, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. “And honestly, two days ago, I didn’t know if he was going to be able to make the start. He was under the weather and getting IVs in Seattle. So it was even questionable whether he’s gonna go out there. Not only does he go out there, he does that. It was that’s about as special as it gets.”
Judge had high praise for Cole’s performance, particularly in response to being one of the starters singled out as having diminished results since the league-wide crackdown on the use of foreign substances on baseballs.
“That took guts. That took heart,” Judge said. “People can say what they want about different things going on or he’s not the same but he’s the same guy. He brought the intensity tonight; we fed off him all night. And to keep a team like the Astros, shut them out for all nine, it’s pretty impressive.
“I know they’re missing a couple of their big bats, [Alex] Bregman and [Carlos] Correa, especially. But that was just an impressive performance all night. And even in the ninth inning trying to get pulled, he said ‘no, this is this is my game.’ You love to see that out of your ace.”