HOUSTON -- Astros starter Justin Verlander breezed through the first three innings in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Sunday night at Minute Maid Park, sitting the Yankees down in order. But Aaron Judge was ready to break up the righty’s rhythm in his second trip to the plate.
With the Yankees trailing by one, DJ LeMahieu broke up Verlander’s perfect game by drawing a full-count walk before Judge erased the no-hitter and shutout with one swing of the bat. The New York slugger launched a 423-foot home run to right-center field to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning.
“It’s fun. This is what you live for,” Judge said. “This is what I dreamed of as a kid, rocking stadiums and … a chance to be a hero.”
An animated Judge rounded third shouting into the Yankees' dugout, then seemed to share some intel with outfielder Brett Gardner and catcher Gary Sanchez once he returned. The homer came on the heels of Yanks starter James Paxton’s removal in the bottom of the third after it appeared he was tipping his pitches.
Whatever Judge whispered, it wasn't the magical tip Yankees hitters needed, as the homer was the only scoring New York mustered on its way to a 3-2 loss on Carlos Correa's walk-off homer in the 11th inning, evening the ALCS at a game apiece.
"We had a lot of chances that game, you know. We had them on the ropes basically all game and just weren’t able to seal the deal," Judge said. "We're confident going back home, you know, splitting the series, splitting the two games here and now have three of them Bronx.”
Entering the night, Judge had gone 2-for-18 with a home run in his career against Verlander, who went the entire 2019 regular season without allowing a single batted ball over a 110 mph exit velocity. But after Judge’s 110.9-mph blast, he’s now given up three this postseason. The first came on an Avisaíl García single in the AL Division Series (111.4 mph), and LeMahieu was responsible for the second on a 111.1-mph lineout in the first inning on Sunday.
Judge has now hit five career postseason homers with exit velocities of at least 110 mph, two more than any other player in the postseason since Statcast began tracking data in 2015.
Judge’s homer on Sunday was the hardest hit off Verlander since Khris Davis’ 110.9-mph shot on June 14, 2018, and it was the third-hardest hit off Verlander since 2015. It was Judge's eighth career postseason home run, tied for second-most by a Yankees player in his first 25 career postseason games, behind only Lou Gehrig (9). This is only Judge's 23rd postseason game, so he has two games to move ahead of the Yanks legend.