Judge hits 51st HR, putting on a show for teammates

August 31st, 2022

ANAHEIM -- Night after night, Aaron Judge’s Yankees teammates have a front-row seat for baseball’s best one-man show. As the slugger continues to belt homers ahead of Roger Maris’ 1961 pace, they’re enjoying the ride as much as anyone.

Judge launched his Major League-leading 51st home run on Tuesday evening, helping to power the Yankees’ 7-4 victory over the Angels while closing within 10 big swings of equaling Maris’ 61-year-old single-season American League record.

“The process he takes every single day is the most special thing about him,” said Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo. “His routine, getting to watch him every day and talk to him, it’s so fundamentally sound. That’s the most enjoyable part. The results are amazing, but the way he goes about it is even better.”

Rizzo and Andrew Benintendi hit early homers as the Yanks snapped their three-game West Coast slide, but it was Judge’s drive that had a crowd of 42,684 at Angel Stadium buzzing, keeping the All-Star on pace to hit 63 home runs this season.

Judge’s latest home run -- his second in as many nights, and his fifth in the last eight games -- came in the fourth inning off Angels starter Mike Mayers, a Statcast-projected 378-foot blast to right-center field with DJ LeMahieu and Benintendi aboard. The homer came off Judge’s bat at 107.5 mph.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Yankees starter Jameson Taillon. “It just feels like any time he’s out there, he’s got a chance to do something special. It doesn’t matter what scouting report you have or whether you execute your pitch or not. He’s just so good that you can make a good pitch and he can still hit it out of the park. It’s special.”

Judge’s homer provided a healthy cushion, with Taillon having been forced to exit after two innings, hit on the right forearm by a Magneuris Sierra comebacker. To Taillon’s relief, X-rays were negative, and the hurler hopes to make his next scheduled start.

“He’s feeling better already,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “We’ve started trying to get the swelling out of there; obviously, it got him good. We’ll just kind of see how the next couple of days unfold.”

Taillon’s early departure challenged the Yanks’ bullpen to record 21 outs, and the relievers performed with aplomb, limiting the Halos to two runs on five hits. Greg Weissert recorded his first Major League win, retiring all six men he faced, including Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

“I knew that I got called up for a reason, so I just stuck to my game plan,” said Weissert, who has made two sharp appearances since a rough debut in Oakland.

Mike Ford hit a fifth-inning homer off Lucas Luetge, but Lou Trivino, Ron Marinaccio and Jonathan Loáisiga all pitched scorelessly before Wandy Peralta allowed a run in the ninth on a bloop single.

“They were great,” Boone said, “all doing their part to pick each other up.”

Yet even as the 27-year-old Weissert celebrated his effort, pondering where to display the keepsake baseball from his victory, the rookie couldn’t help but marvel at his 6-foot-7 teammate across the room.

“Judge is unbelievable,” Weissert said. “I’ve only been here for a short time, but getting to watch him play, it’s pretty impressive.”

Judge leads the Majors with 113 RBIs and, with a three-hit showing on Tuesday, has reached base safely in 26 of his last 30 games (since July 28).

“He’s really good,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin. “He got a pitch out over the plate with a couple guys on and he drove it out of the park. That's what he does. He's in a groove right now. Just watching his swing from the side, how on time he is, everything is in a good place. He's hard to pitch to.”

Judge’s 51 homers are the 10th most in a single season by a Yankee. They are the most since Judge hit 52 in 2017, when he was the unanimous selection as the AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in the AL MVP race to the Astros’ Jose Altuve.

Only five Yankees have hit 50 or more homers in a single season: Maris, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Mickey Mantle and Judge.

“It’s fun to be his teammate,” Taillon said. “He shows up every day, just prepares and goes about it the right way. He’s extremely neutral; he doesn’t let it get to his head or anything. He’s a great guy.”