No. 54! Judge crushes decisive HR, ties a Yanks record

With homer in 3rd straight game, slugger on pace for 65, matches A-Rod's 2007 feat

September 5th, 2022

NEW YORK -- With the September stretch run in full force, this much has become crystal clear: The Yankees (81-54) will go as far as will carry them.

The 30-year-old superstar, who entered Monday with 8.5 WAR -- the highest among all Major League players, per Fangraphs -- is doing everything in his power to ensure that this season’s sky-high expectations come to fruition in the Bronx.

With “M-V-P” chants bellowing down from the Labor Day crowd of 38,446 at Yankee Stadium, Judge homered for the third consecutive game, launching his 54th homer of the season -- a go-ahead two-run blast in the sixth inning that delivered a 5-2 series-opening victory over the Twins (68-65).

“Man, it just gets more and more amazing what he’s doing. I mean, it really does,” said manager Aaron Boone. “Doesn’t get pitched to much and [is] just ready when it is in there. It’s getting hard to put into words what he’s doing. … Just a special season he’s in the midst of.”

Judge’s long ball traveled a Statcast-projected 404 feet at an exit velocity of 109.6 mph off Twins righty reliever Trevor Megill, and it countered former Yankee Gary Sánchez’s 473-foot game-tying moonshot one frame earlier. It also pushed Judge into a tie with Alex Rodriguez (circa 2007) for the most home runs in a single season by a right-handed batter in Yankees history.

Switch-hitter Mickey Mantle notched 54 homers in 1961, while lefty Babe Ruth reached that total in 1920, which he later topped with 59 in ’21 and 60 in ’27.

Judge, whose blistering pace has put him in position to break Roger Maris’ American League record of 61, is now on track to hit 65 home runs before the season is done. The Yankees have 27 games remaining.

After not homering in a season-long nine-game stretch from Aug. 13-21, Judge has now smashed eight home runs in his last 13 games. But despite the historic tear he’s on, the four-time All-Star isn’t focused on the illustrious company he keeps joining.

“Every single day I show up to work ready to go and do whatever it takes to get our team a win,” Judge said. “If that’s me moving a guy over, driving a guy in, making a play on defense -- that’s what I’m focused on. All the individual awards, accolades, stats you get throughout the year, it’s all based on how well you help the team out. So if I’m not out there helping the team every single day, the stats and all that stuff doesn’t show up.”

Judge is coming through in that department, too. After accounting for nearly all of the Yankees’ offense in their last series against the Rays, he kept it up on Monday with a 2-for-3 showing, including a pair of extra-base hits, a walk and two runs scored.

Judge’s performance supported starter , who remained on schedule after exiting his previous start due to a comebacker that caused a right forearm contusion. Taillon gave up just two runs -- the sixth straight outing in which the Yankees’ rotation has allowed that many earned runs or fewer -- in five innings but took a no-decision after giving up the long ball to Sánchez.

Judge made sure that momentum didn’t last, taking Megill’s 88 mph slider on a 3-1 count that hung right in the heart of the strike zone and depositing it in the second deck in left field.

“It’s nice to play with him behind you,” Taillon said. “There’s maybe only a few guys throughout the league who are even close to as big of a threat as he is. One swing of the bat can change the game any time he’s up there.”

and also launched solo homers, giving the Yankees their Major League-leading 31st game with at least three home runs. Only three other teams entered the day with at least 20 such games.

Judge is similarly running away with this season’s home run race. Kyle Schwarber has the next highest total with 36, but in the AL alone, Yordan Alvarez’s 31 would be the runner-up.

Most HR in a season, MLB history -- with totals through 135 team games:
2001 Barry Bonds: 73 -- 57
1998 Mark McGwire: 70 -- 54
1998 Sammy Sosa: 66 -- 53
2022 Aaron Judge: 65 (current pace) -- 54
1999 Mark McGwire: 65 -- 52
2001 Sammy Sosa: 64 -- 53
1999 Sammy Sosa: 63 -- 57
1961 Roger Maris: 61 -- 53
1927 Babe Ruth: 60 -- 49

While Judge might call it “offseason talk,” there’s no question that this Yankees season will be determined not just by how many he hits, but by how many more meaningful ones he has in him.

“He’s our leader,” said Kiner-Falefa. “He goes about his business the right way. Everybody sees it, everybody feeds off his energy and just the way he does things. Everybody notices it.

“We just got to keep going, and I’m excited for what’s to come for him.”