Gregory Fisher | USA TODAY Sports

Amid the expected media storm before, during, and after Aaron Judge’s 60th home run on Tuesday, the Yankees got some good injury news.

On the pitching side, Frankie Montas’ shoulder MRI came back clean and showed only inflammation. Even better is he expects to return before the postseason and isn’t concerned about further injury. He’s on the 15-day injured list and can come back Oct. 2 at the earliest, New York’s final home game of the season.

And on the hitting side, manager Aaron Boone provided a welcome update on DJ LeMahieu. Boone said the two-time batting champion could return this week after missing a couple of weeks with a sprained toe.

Obviously, the Yankees need both players if they want to make a deep postseason run. LeMahieu can hit all over the field when healthy and hit .344 in July before injuring his toe. Playing through it saw him bat just .211 in August. He is the team’s proper leadoff man, great as it’s been seeing Judge in that slot lately. Being able to play multiple infield position also helps.

Montas’ role is much more important to the Yankees, and the results a bit more unpredictable. The big righty has struggled in the Bronx and is 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in eight starts and an ugly 3.4 walks per nine innings (BB/9). By comparison, he issued just 2.4 BB/9 in Oakland.


Now, in Montas’ defense, some of his struggles aren’t entirely of his own doing. His Yankees debut was marred by comically bad umpiring from Ed Hickox. Aaron Hicks’ dropped catch against the Rays turned a two-run outing into a four-run outing. A lack of command and further umpire trouble hurt him in Milwaukee last weekend. It also doesn’t help that the Yankees have averaged under four runs per game in his eight starts for them.

But at the same time, Montas has also proven he can step right into the belly of the beast and compete at a high level. He held a talented Mets team to two runs in a sold-out Yankee Stadium, issuing just one walk in 5 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win.

It gets better. Two starts later, he took the ball at known Yankees cooler Tropicana Field and pitched five shutout innings of one-hit ball. The best part? He didn’t allow any walks.

Unless Luis Severino comes back at full dominance Wednesday, Montas probably starts behind Gerrit Cole in Game 2 of a playoff series. We can debate his struggles all we want but they’re not the point. What matters is Montas has been himself enough in pinstripes that he can be trusted in a playoff game.

Now consider a recovered and dominant Montas in the playoffs and a healthy LeMahieu at the top of the lineup. One is an ace-quality pitcher when at his best. The other is such a literal hitting machine that it’s become his nickname.

These two players are very much playoff X-factors for the Yankees. LeMahieu might as well be an automatic baserunner when he’s swinging a hot bat. He’s practically automatic protection for Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Stanton. Montas is the insurance policy in case Severino struggles or Nestor Cortes doesn’t have his crafty command, perhaps both.

If both continue to struggle when they get back, then Boone hopes the current strategy works. Maybe Oswaldo Cabrera gets hot and has a Daniel Murphy-esque postseason.

But if LeMahieu returns to batting champ form and Montas is in ace mode? And in October, no less? Well, may the baseball gods help any team matched up with the Yankees.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.