ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitchers haven’t been shy about their plan against Aaron Judge this week. Everyone said that they were going straight after Judge, who was vying for a historic 62nd home run, challenging him with pitches he could hit instead of nibbling around the zone and letting him draw walks three times a game.
“We were pitching to him,” said interim manager Tony Beasley. “I think everyone can see that we haven't pitched around him. We had no intention of trying to walk him. We were trying to execute pitches and get him out. The guys behind him can hurt you, so we attacked him with our game plan and I felt like we had success.”
That mindset worked for the first two games of the series, as Judge went 2-for-9 with two singles and no walks against Texas’ pitching staff, including 1-for-5 in the Rangers' 5-4 loss in Game 1 of Tuesday's day-night doubleheader. In the second game, though, it was Rangers opener Jesus Tinoco who challenged Judge -- and lost.
Tinoco grooved a middle-middle slider at 88 mph on the third pitch of Texas' 3-2 win at Globe Life Field, and Judge launched it a Statcast-projected 391 feet over the left-field wall into the front row of Section 31, where it was secured by Dallas resident Cory Youmans amid a record crowd of 38,832 fans.
Judge now stands alone at the top of the American League single-season home run leaderboard with 62 after passing Roger Maris.
“It’s part of the game,” Tinoco said through interpreter Raul Cardenas. “I challenged him and he just hit the home run. ... I wasn’t nervous at all, though. I have a routine and I went through it like any other time. I’m a pitcher. I know I have to go in and compete -- and that’s what I did.”
“He earned it,” Beasley added. “He got a pitch that he could handle and he homered. Hats off. … Again, he got a decent pitch he could handle and he did something that he's been doing quite frequently this year -- hit a home run.”
Tinoco didn’t know he would be starting the second game of the doubleheader until after the first game finished, so he didn’t even think about the possibility of Judge leading off the game with home run No. 62.
The right-hander was maybe an unlikely guess at who would ultimately give up the historic homer to Judge. Tinoco signed with the Rangers as a Minor League free agent last offseason after two separate stints with the Rockies from 2019-21, while also making a brief five-inning stop with the Marlins in ‘20.
He posted a 3.27 ERA out of the bullpen with Triple-A Round Rock in 2022 before making his Rangers debut as a COVID replacement player in June. He was recalled from Round Rock when rosters expanded on Sept. 1.
In 19 2/3 big league innings entering Tuesday’s game, Tinoco had allowed just one home run (Detroit’s Eric Haase on June 18). The next one he surrendered would be historic.
“It's part of the game, and that’s gonna happen,” Tinoco said. “Whether I’m in the record book or not, nobody wants to give up a home run. It's part of the game or whatever, so congratulations to him for hitting 62.”
Both Tinoco and Beasley said that giving up a homer, however historic it may be, is never ideal. But being able to see that history while securing a victory made it settle a little easier.
“Obviously, it's against us, so in-game, we're not ecstatic about it,” Beasley said. “Once we have time to look back over to reflect, it's a huge moment in baseball. What he’s accomplished this year is something amazing. You have to respect that and hats off to him.”