What's it like to give up a historic HR? Let this Blue Jay tell it

September 29th, 2022

TORONTO -- With chasing history in Toronto this week, Blue Jays pitchers have said they hoped to avoid being the answer to a trivia question.

When Judge launched his 61st home run to left field in the seventh inning of Toronto’s 8-3 loss on Wednesday, though, he made that answer.

The Blue Jays left-hander surrendered the homer that tied Roger Maris for the American League single-season record on a 94.5 mph sinker in a 3-2 count. Judge had seemingly lived in full counts all series, working an incredible seven walks, but he finally got the pitch he’d been looking for from Mayza and did exactly what the baseball world has been waiting for.

“I feel like we’ve been attacking him away a lot of the time, or trying to go away and expand from there,” Mayza said after the game. “I just wanted to attack him with sinkers, challenge him and try to get the ball on the ground, especially with a runner on first. He put together a pretty good at-bat. I probably made the one mistake, and he took advantage. Kudos to him and congratulations to him. I just left one too many pitches over the plate to a good hitter.”

It’s impossible for a pitcher not to be aware of the moment when Judge steps to the plate. Not only is Judge an unmistakable presence, standing 6-foot-7 in the box, but balls with special markings were put in play for his plate appearances ahead of the historic homer. Mayza said that the authenticated balls felt the same, of course, but he was trying to focus on the batter, not the spotlight.

“That’s not on my mind at all,” Mayza said. “The only thing I thought of was to attack him and get the ball on the ground. I think that approaching hitters, I want to get the at-bat over in four pitches or less. That was the goal, to get him on the ground as quickly as possible.”

Judge’s blast soared a Statcast-projected 394 feet and fell just short of the lower-level seats in left field at Rogers Centre, just inches beyond the outstretched gloves of fans. It ricocheted down into the Blue Jays’ bullpen, bouncing past before bullpen coach Matt Buschmann made the catch on the hop. Eventually, Yankees reliever came across and retrieved the ball.

Mayza has been a trusted member of Toronto’s bullpen all season, emerging as the club’s go-to lefty regardless of matchups. A home run won’t change that, of course, regardless of the magnitude, and his skipper expects him to be a key contributor in this stretch run.

“It’s tough. He made really good pitches,” interim manager John Schneider said. “That 2-2 pitch was really close. It was just a little bit down. You have to credit a good hitter. I didn’t say anything to Timmy. It’s a tied record, it’s not a broken record or anything like that. He’s been one of the best relievers in the league, so I don’t think you need to say anything to him.”

, the Blue Jays’ closer, was involved in the handoff to Britton near the team’s bullpen. Like many in the clubhouse, he’s close friends with Mayza.

“It’s definitely a cool night for Judge and stuff like that,” Romano said. “But definitely, you know, it sucks. If you’re the pitcher, there’s just a lot of extra attention on you and stuff like that. So it kind of sucks. But, you know, it’s baseball. A lot of stuff sucks. And you’ve just got to get over it and get going.”

That’s exactly what the Blue Jays will do coming out of Thursday’s off-day -- when they have a chance to clinch a postseason spot with an Orioles loss -- and they’ll welcome the fact that Judge’s quest for No. 62 carries on elsewhere.