On the very rare occasion this week that the Yankees’ Aaron Judge actually paused at first base rather than rounding them all following another home run, he provided the most stunning image of the holiday series vs. the Braves.
There he stood absolutely dwarfing the 6-foot-5 Freddie Freeman, the oak next to the sun-room ficus. It was a jarring – bordering on cartoonish – vision, that of the biggest player on the Braves in every way made to appear almost petite before our eyes. Someone get that poor little first baseman a protein shake.
The fact that Freeman took a pitch off the back of his arm and had to prematurely exit the final game of the series – the hit-by-pitch being his only known kryptonite – really drove home the point:
It was definitely time to escape from New York.
Time for the Braves to move on after testing themselves against the brawny Yankees in what was the most enthralling series yet this season. Monday night’s game, for instance, won prime time ratings in both the Atlanta and New York market. It was the highest-rated Braves telecast on Fox Sports South/Southeast in nearly five years.
Nothing else to see here.
The Braves had taken one of three games in the Bronx. Their young players had gotten some most valuable experience playing in a setting that hinted of October. Their lead in the National League East was reduced to a game-and-a-half over Philadelphia. They got to reach out from home plate and almost touch the right-field wall at Yankee Stadium, the silly dimension to a classic baseball address.
We learned that Braves starter Sean Newcomb, like kindling, is not at his best when wet. He melted in the heat of his start against the Yankees, unable to get a grip on either the moment or the baseball. I haven’t seen anyone that uncomfortably sweaty since Richard Nixon in his first TV debate with John Kennedy. This could be an issue, given that it’s not going to get much cooler or much less intense from here on.
We learned that bullpens matter, and that one of the two teams has invested wisely in that commodity. Perhaps the other should consider that as well.
We learned that Freeman really should start wearing some of that armor so many other hitters have adopted. Guys go to the plate looking like an Iron Man starter kit, so join the trend already.
We also learned that just by casual observation, the Braves, while losing two of three, certainly weren’t out-classed by the Yankees.
Just don’t get your picture taken next to Judge if you want to maintain any sense of self-esteem.
The image of Freeman shaded by the full eclipse of Judge notwithstanding, did anyone else get the feeling that the Braves are really not so far from standing eye-to-eye with teams like the Yankees?