Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge is out recovering from his sprained toe, and his teammates’ effort against the Red Sox this weekend reflected just how much he means to the Yankees.

New York lost two of three to hated Boston in what was probably the most uninspired performance of the season. The pitching did all it could to keep games close and the bats failed to hold up their end of the bargain. A potential series win was erased by Gleyber Torres’ careless mistake on Sunday, and the struggling Mets await.

If the Yankees don’t show up in the Subway Series, then things will have reached a new low.

Some takeaways:

Boston Strong. We need to accept that as long as Alex Cora is managing the Red Sox, Boston will punch above its weight. This roster was not constructed to be a playoff contender by any stretch. Cora just has that “it” factor of knowing how to get the best out of his guys regardless of their own individual talent.

New Yorkers don’t want to hear it but it’s 100% true. Alex Cora can both brag about being the architect of the Astros’ cheating scandal in 2017 and also be a quality manager. The Red Sox will play spoiler all year long if bigger and better teams let them.

All credit to the pitching. The Yankees’ pitching staff is all that’s kept the Yankees competitive with Judge on the shelf. Gerrit Cole, Domingo German, and Clarke Schmidt pitched to a combined 2.10 ERA against Boston. New York’s MLB-best bullpen largely did its job. Only errors and ghost runners derailed Sunday’s effort.

The Red Sox’s arms were competitive themselves. Closer Kenley Jansen notched two saves and stopped a recent cold streak. Boston’s starters also posted a 2.35 ERA and largely held New York’s power-heavy lineup in check.

The difference is Boston’s pitching staff still ranked just 24th in baseball with a 4.66 ERA headed into Sunday. Were the Sawx that good on the mound, or were the Yankees just that bad at the plate?

Anthony Volpe was rushed. I recently said that Volpe might benefit from a short trip to the minors. After his first taste of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, that view hasn’t changed. Volpe just missed a walk-off home run on Friday before popping out to end the game. On Sunday, with the tying run on third base, he struck out swinging for the final out.

His batting average has plummeted to .186 and Volpe is pressing way too much. Every at-bat is all about making the big hit with even bigger contact. Maybe comparing him to Derek Jeter before he even played an inning of Double-A ball wasn’t such a great idea.

Volpe needs to get on the Scranton shuttle and spend a week or two learning to shorten his swing. The Yankees appreciate his home run power, but don’t need to depend on it like they do Judge’s. Until Volpe learns how to swing for simple base hits, it’s probably best he be out of the big league lineup.

The Yankees don’t look like a playoff team. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Aaron Judge was the Yankees’ strongest link and unfortunately, since his toe injury, it’s a wonder the chain hasn’t completely crumbled.’s Max Goodman added that though the Yankees are 3-4 in the last week since losing Judge, it’s largely because of the pitching staff. The Yankees’ bats are averaging just three runs per game.

This is a lineup that has two former MVPs in Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton. DJ LeMahieu is a two-time batting champion, including one with the Yankees in 2020. Add in Anthony Rizzo’s struggles, and it’s no wonder this lineup seems like it’s barely producing. Wins will be scarce until someone starts stepping up and hitting consistently, be it for contact or power.

It’s inconceivable that a lineup can be this bad just from losing Aaron Judge. Until the Yankees can learn to play well and win without him, even a Wild Card berth seems optimistic.

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.