Sixty-one years later, Aaron Judge has done it. He’s lifted the interminable pressure. Mrs. Judge and Roger Maris Jr. can finally have some fun at the ballpark. And the New York Yankees can continue playing even more relaxed baseball.
On Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, Judge walked in his first at-bat and grounded out in his second. Everyone was expecting more of the same. Pitchers throwing to him with precision. Judge missing the few pitches he actually got over the plate. And another night this would drag on.
But Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza stepped on down and did us all a favor. Judge, who was stuck on No. 60 for 35 at-bats, stepped into the batter’s box following an Aaron Hicks single in the seventh inning with the game tied at 3-3.
The Yankees, especially Gerrit Cole, who once again melted down the inning prior to blow a three-run lead, needed an injection of offense to keep the Jays at bay, take a lead into the late innings, and send Vladimir Guerrero Jr. back to his home after he fist-pumped the inning prior as he hit a sac fly.
Judge did just that. He worked the count and then sent a laser over the left field wall to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. Pressure lifted. Like Barry Bonds said, 61 was the hardest one to get. Now even more should flow for the final seven games of the year.
Aaron Judge has tied Roger Maris for the all-time single-season HR record. Finally!
The national spectacle will continue, but it won’t be nearly as pressure-filled for Judge, who’s been waiting to get this monkey off his back since he last homered on Sept. 20. Everybody was tuning in for every at-bat. Radio broadcasts. TVs. Streams. Whatever it was, the world was watching and everyone knew when Aaron Judge was standing in the batter’s box.
Each at-bat got tougher. Nobody wanted to be the pitcher to surrender a record home run. Some pitchers went at Judge and challenged him, but they then returned to trying to dot the corners the moment after they gave him that one hittable pitch.
On a 3-2 count, a 94 MPH sinker did the job. The Blue Jays walking him would’ve done no good in this situation. It would’ve put runners on first and second with nobody out and the danger would’ve only mounted for a team that couldn’t afford to have their backs any closer to the wall.
It didn’t matter anyway, though, if that makes Blue Jays fans feel any better. An infield single by Oswald Peraza and a single by Harrison Bader forced an error by outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to score a run anyway, and the Yankees extended their lead 6-3.
To top it all off … nobody got the ball. A Blue Jays fan in the left field seats just missed the screaming line drive and it landed in the bullpen. After all the buildup of who would catch it, how much it would sell for, and what the struggle would be to get it back, that was pretty easy, right?
As for Vladdy’s house, sadly it’s no more. An AL East clinch and a record-tying home run removes his name from the deed. We don’t make the rules.