MLB News 2022 | Aaron Judge’s hunt for the HR record turns the New York Yankees’ run into a stir

The crowds at Yankee Stadium have grown expectant, perched on the edge of their seats as they wait for Aaron Judge to send a ball out of the park.

The greatest show on earth unfolded in the ninth inning, and the crowd at Yankee Stadium stood and hummed in anticipation of baseball’s most predictable result: Aaron Judge sending a whistling pitch over the outfield wall.

With an on and an out, a full count and a chance to tie the game, Judge lifted a slider from Royals henchman Taylor Clarke towards the trusty old porch on the right. Almost everyone’s immediate reaction to the start was to believe that the gentle giant’s 43rd home run of the year and 10th in the last 10 games had just added to his ever-advancing place in the Yankee mythology.

But Judge quickly realized that even in a sport riddled with insane errors, he can’t impose his will on every clutch situation. He reprimanded himself halfway. Though the mighty Casey didn’t strike, he did hit what turned out to be a harmless fly ball in a four-hour 8-6 loss to a last-place team.

Three straight wins over the Royals and an 11 ½ game lead in the AL East didn’t stop questions spinning after the game around Tuesday’s 6 p.m. close and the Yankees’ need for an arm or two. The fact that Clay Holmes hasn’t been quite as invincible of late was confirmed by Salvador Perez’s crucial three-point blaster. The fact that Luis Castillo will throw the rest of the way for someone else will be hammered home when he takes to the mound in the Bronx this week in the Seattle Mariners colors.

Does GM Brian Cashman have a riposte to give his 69-34 team an even better chance of winning it all for the first time since 2009? His manager Aaron Boone said, “I’m sure it’s going to be a crazy 48 hours in the baseball world.”

And then everything will calm down. The Yankees will retain their runaway lead in the division through August and September, then determine their own legacy in October. They won’t have much play until postseason, so they’ll need a dog tag to wear them.

Aaron Judge’s home run derby is the cause of dog days. Before Saturday, Babe Ruth was the only other Yankee to hit 42 home runs in the first 102 games of a season. Prior to Sunday, Judge had hit 12 in 14 games, a show of raw, explosive power even the Babe had never equaled.

Judge has 59 games left to break the franchise all-time record, American League record and Roger Maris baseball (non-PED division) record of 61. If he stays healthy, he’ll probably make it. If he stays healthy, he has an outside shot at the all-time baseball (PED division) record of 73 held by Barry Bonds.

In 1961, Maris was vying with the adoring Mickey Mantle for the right to surpass beloved Babe for the single-season crown, and the stress of it all caused him to lose some hair. As a hugely popular brawler in a very different time and place, Judge won’t see anything like it.

“Aaron was made for this,” Boone said. “If we’re a month or six weeks down the road and he’s knocking on the doors of things like that, we understand the attention that will come with that. I can’t think of anyone better equipped to handle this. And I think you can start all the talk about the contract and how that affected him at the beginning of the year.

“He’s built for it and I think whatever you throw at him, whether he gets a number or not, I don’t think the circumstances or the pressure are going to be a reason why he does or doesn’t. “

Neither do I. The Judge has the calmest heartbeat, whether it’s the long ball or the long-term contract. After becoming the second-fastest major league player with 200 career home runs on Saturday, Judge acknowledged the individual performance as “something special” but quickly shifted the focus to team-centric goals. He addressed the likelihood that pitchers would give him very little to bat, and spoke of his willingness to accept walks and field hitters behind him.

In Sunday’s seventh inning, Judge did just that with a low-count slider from Brooklyn’s Jose Cuas, drawing his second walk in a field close enough to attempt. Anthony Rizzo followed up with a three-barrel shot from Dylan Coleman.

Most days in the Bronx, that would have been good enough for the W against a really bad team. But Perez is a whale of a player who put up some Judge-ian numbers last year, and Holmes’ sinker isn’t sinking like it used to, and baseball is baseball. The best teams can lose on any given Sunday.

In the final inning this Sunday, Clarke challenged Judge at 97 mph before taking him out on the slider two pitches later. “I thought Aaron was ready for this,” Boone said, “and just missed circumcising him.”

So be it. But, win or lose, Judge’s home run against history will bring great meaning to relatively meaningless late-season games. As the trading deadline comes and goes, the big man will make everything around him seem bigger for the last two months.

And that can only be a good thing for a team desperate to win the biggest prize of them all.

– New York Post MLB News 2022 | Aaron Judge’s hunt for the HR record turns the New York Yankees’ run into a stir

Nate Jones

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