June boom: Judge's 464-ft HR sets the tone

Yankees 'put on a show' in front of slugger's friends and family in SF

June 2nd, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- 's happy homecoming has continued into a new month.

The Yankees star reached the left-field seats at Oracle Park in the first inning on Saturday for a two-run homer, launching his Major League-leading 21st long ball of the season in New York's 7-3 victory over the Giants.

“I’ve got a lot of family in town, a lot of friends in town,” Judge said. “We’ve got to do something special for them. I’m just trying to stay locked in and put on a show.”

Giancarlo Stanton also homered and Alex Verdugo drove in a pair of runs for the Bombers, who have now won 15 of their last 19 games. Judge, who homered twice in Friday’s series opener, has been the heartbeat of that tear.

“He’s in such a good place,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The difference between him and most other guys is, when guys get hot and hit it off the barrel, they rack up some hits. When he gets hot and hits it off the barrel, it’s in the seats. It’s fun to keep watching that.”

Judge just wrapped a monster May in which he batted .361/.479/.918 (35-for-97) with 28 runs, 12 doubles, 14 homers and 27 RBIs. At this point, anything seems possible -- including another run at the single-season American League home run record that Judge claimed in 2022.

“There were runs in that ’22 season that were pretty wild, but this one is on par with that,” Stanton said. “He’s zoning guys up. They’re giving him their best stuff. He’s unfazed by all those, finding a way to square it up in big spots and important times for the team.”

Judge’s first-inning blast off San Francisco’s Logan Webb was one of the longest hit in the ballpark’s 25 years, calculated at a Statcast-projected 464 feet with a 115.7 mph exit velocity.

“That first at-bat, [Webb] was throwing me everything,” Judge said. “I was just up there battling, to be honest. I was able to get one there that he left out over the middle. When a guy like that is on the mound, you can’t miss a mistake.”

The drive, which came on a changeup and capped a nine-pitch battle with Webb, is tied for the fifth longest at the stadium since Statcast began tracking in 2015.

“He’s an MVP for a reason,” Webb said. “You can’t throw pitches in the heart of the plate. That’s just kind of the name of the game.”

Verdugo said that he senses this series has meant more for Judge, who cheered for the Giants while growing up in Linden, Calif., about 100 miles away, then turned down San Francisco’s nine-year, $360 million contract offer as a free agent after the 2022 season.

“Every game is important, but it might be a little personal,” Verdugo said.

Added Boone: “I thought he was at another level in San Diego and Anaheim [earlier this week]. He’s just taking his act up the coast.”

Juan Soto also drove in an early run for the Yanks in support of Cody Poteet, who was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and navigated five innings of three-run (two earned) ball.

Poteet struck out six with a walk in a 78-pitch effort, picking up his second victory of the season. Boone suggested that Poteet could see more starts in place of the injured Clarke Schmidt, at least until Gerrit Cole is ready to return.

“I’m not looking too far ahead,” Poteet said. “I’m just taking it a day at a time, trying to get better each day and enjoying being around so many great players.”

Poteet said that he, like the rest of the baseball world, has been awed by Judge’s sizzling performance. The right-hander was thankful not to have to pitch to Judge, noting, “It seems like he’s seeing the ball real well right now, so that would be a tough one.”

Though the calendar has flipped, Judge’s month of May deserves one more acknowledgment. His 26 extra-base hits were tied with Babe Ruth (in June 1921 and July 1924) for the third most by a Yankee in a month, behind only Joe DiMaggio (31 in July 1937) and Lou Gehrig (29 in July 1930).

Judge’s 1.397 OPS was the third highest of any Yankee ever in May, minimum 50 plate appearances (Ruth, 1.547, 1928; and Ruth, 1.412, 1930), while he joined Mickey Mantle (1956) and Tino Martinez (1997) as the only Yankees to reach 20 homers before the start of June (Judge did so in 59 games, while Mantle accomplished it in 42 and Martinez in 54).

Clearly, he’s not done yet -- and neither are the Yanks.

“We’re just getting started,” Judge said. “We’ll talk at the end of June.”