Judge clears catwalk, joins Babe with multi-HR pace

June 23rd, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- Aaron Judge watched his second deep drive of the night sail up, up and up toward the catwalks above Tropicana Field’s left-field seats, the ball fading from view. It was another no-doubter for the Yankees slugger, though he did harbor a question in this case.

Uncertain about how the ground rules would treat his blast if it were to dent one of those quirky pathways, Judge hustled out of the batter’s box, then realized he could safely begin yet another home run trot. Judge’s two-homer performance helped power the Yankees’ 5-4 victory over the Rays on Wednesday evening.

“I saw it the whole way through, but I don’t know the catwalk rules,” Judge said. “So I started running around the bases; I didn’t know what would happen if it would hit one of those and drop back in. I was just trying to make sure I was on second base if it fell in play.”

Jose Trevino belted a go-ahead, two-run blast in the eighth inning off Ralph Garza Jr., providing the necessary margin of victory as the Yanks celebrated their 18th win in 21 games, heading into a four-game showdown against the Astros in the Bronx starting on Thursday.

With his timely homer and a key fourth-inning pickoff at third base, Trevino fielded most of the praise in the clubhouse, hearing manager Aaron Boone lobby for the catcher’s inclusion on the AL All-Star team. Extending his Major League lead with homers Nos. 26 and 27, Judge simply continued to bolster his case as the best player on the planet.

“Judge homers and, ‘OK, we’re back into this,’” Boone said. “They just kept pecking away.”

With six multi-homer games already this season, Judge joins Babe Ruth (1928) as the only players in franchise history to achieve the feat within the Yankees’ first 70 games, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Judge has 22 multi-homer games as a Yankee, trailing Ruth (68), Mickey Mantle (46), Lou Gehrig (43), Joe DiMaggio (35) and Alex Rodriguez (29).

“You look at Aaron Judge, you look at [Giancarlo] Stanton, you look at DJ [LeMahieu] -- go one through nine in our lineup and on the bench, they’re all great hitters,” Trevino said. “Learning from them has been huge, talking to them and being able to pick their brains. A guy like Judge is special.”

To that comment, a passing Judge grinned, raising his right fist into the air -- reminding at least one observer of Judd Nelson’s character in the iconic closing scene of "The Breakfast Club." Don’t you forget about me, indeed.

One night after flying out to the warning track as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter, Judge clubbed drives in the fourth and seventh innings off Shane Baz and Colin Poche, respectively. The first shot came on a Baz slider, the right-hander immediately gesturing as though he knew the ball was not coming back.

Poche could be sure about that too, snapping off a curve that hung above the strike zone. Judge hammered it for a towering 406-foot blast that stayed in the air for 6.7 seconds.

“I’m still figuring out what happened,” Boone said. “I was expecting to see it land in the catwalk and then I lost it. It was good to see him clip another one, though.”

Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery grinded through six innings of four-run ball, receiving a no-decision. Clay Holmes worked the ninth for his 12th save as the Bombers tallied their big league-best 51st win, having lost just two series all year – to the Orioles (April 15-17) and White Sox (May 21-22).

Wednesday’s contest also marked the third time this season that Judge has immediately followed a day off with a two-homer game (also May 1 at Kansas City and May 17 at Baltimore).

“I don’t get it,” Judge said, with a laugh. “I think the biggest thing is keeping the body fresh, and when I swing at pitches in the zone, I feel like I can do some damage with them.”