BOSTON — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is four home runs shy of tying Roger Maris’ American League single-season record after a two-homer performance in New York’s 7-6, 10-inning win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
Judge hit his 56th home run of the season off starter Nick Pivetta in the sixth inning and his 57th off reliever Garrett Whitlock in the eighth. He’s now tied with Alex Rodriguez for the second-most home runs in a season by a right-handed hitter and one shy of tying Hank Greenberg (1938) and Jimmie Foxx (1932) for the record.
As usual, Judge tried to divert any attention given to his personal accolades during what’s been an MVP-caliber season.
“You really just don’t look at it. If you’re checking the numbers, you’re gonna get caught,” Judge said after Tuesday’s win. “I just keep trying to do what I can do, and the numbers will take care of themselves. If I have a good plan and have a good approach, do what I need to do in the box, all that other stuff will show up.”
Tuesday marked Judge’s 10th multihomer game of the year, tied for third-most in a season in major league history, behind only Sammy Sosa (1998) and Greenberg, who both had 11, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Judge has 20 home runs more than anyone else in baseball this season; Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber is second in the majors with 37 homers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time an MLB player will finish a day with a lead of 20 or more homers since the final day of the 1928 season, when Babe Ruth led Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson by 23 homers..
“I’m out of adjectives. Just really impressive,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Judge’s season. “To take one out the other way, and then get Whitlock on a breaking ball, he’s riding balls out so well. Rides the first one out the other way, but then that other one just probably a little bit out in front. Just in such good hitting position and so strong and lays the bat in the zone to ride it out so long that he gets a good piece of it and puts it up in the light stand. Just amazing what he’s doing.”
Judge’s homer off Pivetta was his first this season off of a knuckle-curve, evidence of how well he is managing the strike zone.
“They all say it’s a different curve — curve, knuckle curve, I feel like they’re all the same,” Judge said. “Those pitches, they’re pretty slow. You’ve just got to try to see it pop above the zone and try to lay off the nasty one that kind of looks like a heater coming in and kind of drops off. So in that situation, seeing Pivetta quite a few times this year, I just saw something pop and tried to take a good swing on it.”
This was the fifth time this season Judge snapped his homerless streak at five games.
By going 3-for-4 Tuesday night, Judge raised his batting average to .310 and closed in on Minnesota’s Luis Arraez’s .319 for the AL lead. Judge already leads the majors with 123 RBIs.
But he dismissed his Triple Crown potential, saying he’s “a long ways away” from that possibility. He admitted, though, that being a .300 hitter continues to be a significant benchmark in his career.
“As a kid, you look up and you see Albert Pujols hitting .330 every year and consistently put up the RBI numbers and stuff like that. So, for me, grading the hitter has always been about average,” Judge said. “I might be a little old school … but it’s always been a goal of mine to try and get to that point and do that. I feel like if I’m able to do that, I helped put the team in a good spot and we’re winning games.”
And winning games always will be what it’s all about for Judge, according to Boone.
“I’m sure, deep down, he’s aware of what’s going on. But when your priorities are right, and around team, and around leading this team and being the guy, he keeps it simple,” Boone said of Judge’s focus always being team-first. “It’s [about] what I do to help this team win in every aspect of the game, leading, defense, running the bases, putting my plan together at the plate and going up there and executing and just let the results happen. He’s done a great job of that.”