MILWAUKEE -- Aaron Judge is closing in on history, a fact to be made readily apparent by the increased attention that will accompany his every at-bat throughout the remainder of the season. The chants of ‘M-V-P!’, the ovations and the glowing platitudes from teammates and opponents -- it all signals that something special is coming.
Yet the only person who seems unchanged by Judge’s success stands in the box, day after day, belting frozen ropes and chasing legends. Judge launched his Major League-leading 58th and 59th home runs in the Yankees’ 12-8 win over the Brewers on Sunday, closing within two long balls of Roger Maris’ single-season American League record.
“It’s not too difficult if your main focus and your main objective is to go out there and win a game,” Judge said. “The numbers, they’re just numbers. I’m focused on doing what I can to be a good teammate and help the team win. If that means hitting a homer, it means hitting a homer, but it’s never been my focus.”
Most HR in a season, MLB history -- with totals through 146 team games:
2001 Barry Bonds: 73 -- 63
1998 Mark McGwire: 70 -- 62
1998 Sammy Sosa: 66 -- 58
2022 Aaron Judge: 65 (current pace) -- 59
1999 Mark McGwire: 65 -- 55
2001 Sammy Sosa: 64 -- 54
1999 Sammy Sosa: 63 -- 59
1961 Roger Maris: 61 -- 56
1927 Babe Ruth: 60 -- 53
Judge’s pursuit of Maris’ 61-year-old mark has been one of the leading storylines in the Majors this season, especially in the second half. The scene promises to be electric at Yankee Stadium beginning on Tuesday, as Judge and the Yankees return home to face the Pirates with all eyes upon their superhero-sized slugger.
“It should be really special,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, we’re in a pennant chase, and Judge is sitting where he is. There’s going to be added buzz every time he comes up. I experienced that in the NL Central playing against Sammy [Sosa] and [Mark] McGwire in '98. Every time, it’s an event.”
And there is more to Judge’s game than swinging for the fences. With four hits in five at-bats on Sunday, Judge is now batting .316, one point behind AL leader Luis Arraez (.317) of the Twins and tied with Xander Bogaerts (.316) of the Red Sox.
Owning a substantial lead on the AL home run and RBI leaderboards, Judge has raised his average 20 points this month to challenge for baseball’s first Triple Crown since Miguel Cabrera in 2012 and the first by a Yankee since Mickey Mantle in 1956.
“It’s historical,” said Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole. “It’s the greatest offensive season that I’ve personally ever witnessed. I mean, it’s wonderful. I’m riding it, dude. It’s amazing.”
Judge’s 58th homer of the season came in the third inning, an opposite-field solo drive off Jason Alexander that came off the bat at 111.6 mph and was projected to travel 414 feet, per Statcast.
That blast -- part of a back-to-back set that highlighted Anthony Rizzo’s return from the injured list -- marked Judge’s first homer since Sept. 13, when he hit Nos. 56 and 57 in a 7-6, 10-inning victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“I hope he breaks the Yankee record,” said Milwaukee’s Brent Suter. “I just didn’t want to see him do it against us today.”
Judge went deep again in the seventh inning, a solo shot off Luis Perdomo to left field with an exit velocity of 110.3 mph and a projected distance of 443 feet. Perdomo's reaction said it all, with the right-hander tossing his hands into the air with exasperation.
“This is his moment right now,” Perdomo said. “When you make a mistake against him, he’s going to take advantage of it.”
With 59, Judge now holds the AL record for homers in a season by a right-handed hitter, passing Jimmie Foxx (1932) and Hank Greenberg ('38). Sunday also marked Judge’s 11th multi-homer game of '22, tying Greenberg ('38) and Sammy Sosa ('98) for the most in any season.
“This hasn’t been done in this era,” said Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo. “... It’s really impressive, it’s really fun. I know there’s a debate about [Shohei] Ohtani and [the MVP]. But Judge, it’s his season.”
The world has changed markedly since Maris’ pursuit of Babe Ruth’s then-record mark of 60 set in 1927, when the attention levied by New York’s broadcasters and newspapermen prompted Maris to lose some of his hair. Cable television did not exist in that era, to say nothing of cell phones and social media.
Judge has seemingly navigated around the noise concerning Maris, the Triple Crown and any other potential distractions. His secret sauce is also simple, centering all attention upon leading his team to victories, the factor he says is most important to him.
“I tune it out,” Judge said. “I try to stay off all of that stuff as much as I can. If you have a bad game, they’re going to say something. You have a good game, they’re going to say something. I just focus on what I’ve got to do here, focus on helping this team. The opinions of my teammates and coaches, that’s what matters to me.”