Judge has everyone 'watching greatness'

Slugger homers in fourth straight game behind Stroman's gem in San Diego

May 26th, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- With the Yankees at the one-third point of the season, it’s a good time to take stock of the team.

It’s high-performing and on the rise.

The Yankees continued to churn out wins, home runs and stellar starting pitching as they completed their first 54 games with a 4-1 victory over the Padres on Saturday night at Petco Park.

New York recorded its fourth straight win and its 11th in the past 13 games. homered in his fourth straight game -- one shy of his career-best streak -- while tossed six scoreless innings.

At 37-17, the Yankees have the best record in the American League and second in the Majors only to the Phillies’ 38-15. Only two Yankees clubs in the expansion era (since 1961) had a better mark through 54 games: the 1998 powerhouse (41-13) and the 2022 squad that reached the ALCS (39-15).

“We had a lot of high expectations for this group,” Judge said. “You wear the pinstripes and play in New York, you’re expected to win. I think this group knew that coming into camp. … This group has shown up every single day. Even after a tough loss or a couple tough losses in a row, they show up the next day ready to go. So hats off to everybody.”

That ’22 club, of course, got an AL-record 62 home runs from Judge. He hit his 17th of the year on Saturday to move into a tie with Baltimore’s Gunnar Henderson and Houston’s Kyle Tucker for the MLB lead.

Judge reached the second deck of the left-field stands for the second straight night. Padres starter Dylan Cease had allowed only two homers to right-handed batters this year, but Judge was all over a 2-0 knuckle-curve three batters into the game. He crushed it a Statcast-projected 429 feet with 113.7 mph exit velocity.

“That ball was absolutely hammered,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought Cease was really good for them. From the side, you just felt this is a guy we’re facing with great stuff. It felt like he was on, and Judge just drops the hammer there in the first inning.”

Over his past 13 games, Judge has batted .455 (20-for–44) with eight homers, eight doubles, 17 runs, 14 RBIs, a .569 OBP and a 1.182 slugging average. Going back 20 games, he’s one of four players in AL/NL history with more than 10 homers and doubles in a 20-game stretch.

The list:

2024: Aaron Judge, Yankees
2018: Mookie Betts, Red Sox
2015: Edwin Encarnación, Blue Jays
2000: Richard Hidalgo, Astros

If you add more qualifiers -- at least 11 homers, at least 12 doubles and at least one plate appearance in all 20 games -- Judge stands alone in AL/NL history.

“It’s watching greatness,” Stroman said. “... He’s a big presence in the box. When he’s on time, it’s like he’s all over every pitch you throw. And he’s laying off bad pitches. He’s doing damage on pitches in the zone. And ones that aren’t, he’s pretty much moving on to the next pitch.”

Judge’s latest homer gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead, as Anthony Volpe was on base after extending his career-best hitting streak to 18 games. Staked to the lead, Stroman allowed only three hits and one walk while striking out five batters. Yankees starting pitchers have a combined streak of 25 1/3 scoreless innings.

Yankees starters have a combined 2.74 ERA, tops in the AL and behind only the Phillies (2.63) across the Majors.

As remarkable as those numbers are, they are even more impressive given that Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has yet to throw a pitch this season.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Stroman said. “We’re a bunch of starters who know we can be elite in this game. The flow of information -- the pitching coaches, the staff -- everything is so dialed in. I think we feel really confident when we go out there.”

That same could be said of the team as a whole.

“The energy in the clubhouse, we all know what we’re capable of,” Stroman said. “The confidence of this group is sky high. When you put the work in, that’s where the confidence comes from. There’s so many guys here with an incredible work ethic.”