Phillies: Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole no easy task in return

The Phillies will be tested early in their return to game action against the Yankees on Monday

No one in Major League Baseball is swinging the bat better than Aaron Judge. Hardly anyone is throwing the ball better than Gerrit Cole. Yet, the Philadelphia Phillies — a team who has not played in eight days due to the Miami Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak — have to face both in the series opener against the New York Yankees Monday evening at Yankee Stadium.

So far, Judge leads the majors in six categories on offense through eight games: runs scored (10), home runs (6), RBI (14), slugging percentage (.903), OPS (1.275), and total bases (28). The five-year veteran has homered in five straight games — three shy of the all-time record held by Ken Griffey Jr., Dale Long, and Don Mattingly with the Yankees in 1987.

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If Judge homers off of Phillies starter Jake Arrieta on Monday, the two-time All-Star will tie Lou Gehrig (1931) and Roger Maris (1961) for second place in Yankees history for consecutive games with a home run (6), bested only by the current Marlins manager.

In two career games against the Phillies entering Monday’s game, Judge has slashed .375/.500/.750 with two singles, a solo home run, two walks, and three strikeouts spanning 10 plate appearances.

Cole, meanwhile, is the MLB leader in wins (2) and complete games (1); the three-time All-Star has posted a 3.09 ERA through two starts already in Yankees pinstripes. He held the Washington Nationals to just one run in five innings on Opening Day and was credited with a complete game due to the rain-shortened contest. Six days later, Cole allowed three runs to the Baltimore Orioles in 6 2/3 innings, but earned the win thanks to the Yankees outscoring the opposition, 9 to 3.

Cole will make his eighth career start against the Phillies — and his first since 2017 with the Pittsburgh Pirates — having gone 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.259 WHIP. Since 2017, however, the right-hander arguably has turned into an entirely different pitcher, going 37-10 with a 2.69 ERA. As a Pirate, Cole went 59-41 with a 3.50 ERA from 2013-17.

Judge and Cole make up a big part of the Yankees’ 7-1 overall start to the season, but, as a team, they collectively rank among the best in the majors in hitting and pitching categories. Their 17 total home runs, for instance, ties with the Los Angeles Dodgers for most in MLB. Also, their 2.75 team bullpen ERA ranks as the fifth-best, minimum 25 innings pitched.

Following Monday’s daunting task opposite Judge and Cole, the Phillies have announced that they will turn to Aaron Nola to face former Phillie J.A. Happ in the second of the four-game home-and-home set.

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