CLEVELAND — Thinking of the big picture, Aaron Boone left Aaron Judge out of his starting lineup on Sunday, even with a team day off awaiting on Monday.
It may pay dividends in the long run — and perhaps as soon as Tuesday, given how Judge has responded to rest days this season — but the Yankees missed their MVP candidate on Sunday, mustering just one hit in a 2-0 loss to the Guardians at Progressive Field.
Judge did pinch hit in the ninth inning for Jose Trevino, with two outs and two runners on, but faced a heavy dose of sliders from Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase and settled for a walk to load the bases before Aaron Hicks grounded out to end the game.
In the top of the eighth inning, with the Yankees trailing 1-0 against Guardians reliever Eli Morgan, Boone pinch hit DJ LeMahieu for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Matt Carpenter for Marwin Gonzalez. But he held off on a full line change, allowing the struggling Joey Gallo to hit for himself and strike out, falling to 1-for-32 with 18 strikeouts over his last 13 games.
“I was gonna wait [to use Judge],” Boone said. “I really wanted to stay away from Judge going into the game today unless there were some runners out there. And I knew that potential situation was coming back around for us there in the ninth. I was staying disciplined to that.”
After Judge played both games of Saturday’s doubleheader — on the penultimate day of a 20-games-in-20-days stretch — Boone brought the outfielder into his office and told him he was getting Sunday off. Judge fought him on it “a little bit,” Boone said.
“But we have really good communication over it,” the manager said. “I think he understands. He usually always wants in there. But I was pretty convicted on it [Saturday] night.”
Judge has appeared in 78 of the Yankees’ 80 games, with Sunday marking only his fifth day out of the starting lineup this season. Three times after his first four days off, he has come back to hit two home runs apiece in his next game.
Boone also waited to pinch hit Judge until the ninth inning Sunday because he wanted to avoid making him play the field. That meant a cameo in right field for Carpenter in the bottom of the eighth — his first outfield appearance since 2014 — after the veteran pinch hit and struck out in the top of the inning.
Carpenter did not have a ball hit to him, but was alert in backing up a play at first base.
“I said, ‘Let’s rip the Band-Aid off it today,’ ” Boone said. “Obviously I had Aaron over there but I just didn’t want to put him in the field if I didn’t have to today. So I was like, ‘Let’s roll with it with Carp.’ He had a really good at-bat off of Morgan. Morgan just ended up outlasting him. But it was good to get him out there.”