NEW YORK -- Forty-six thousand, one-hundred and seventy-five people took their seats at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night with the chance to witness history at the forefront of their minds. The sellout crowd was there hoping to see one man, Aaron Judge, hit his 61st home run of the season, which would have tied the American League record that Roger Maris set in 1961.
The energy in the ballpark was palpable, as each Judge plate appearance brought the crowd to its feet, cellphones in the ready position to capture a once-in-a-lifetime memory. The Yankees could feel it.
“It felt like waiting for that big moment, obviously,” said manager Aaron Boone. “It did feel a little bit different tonight.”
Though Judge did not hit No. 61, he went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a four-pitch walk in the eighth inning. No matter, though, as there was another Yankees hitter ready to make some history of his own during that frame.
In the Yankees’ 14-2 victory over the Pirates at Yankee Stadium -- New York’s 90th win of the season -- Gleyber Torres hit not one, but two home runs in an eight-run eighth that put the game on ice. Torres led off and then capped the Bronx Bombers’ offensive eruption with a solo shot to right field and a three-run blast to left, becoming just the fifth Yankee to launch a pair of homers in the same inning.
“[It’s] special,” Torres said. “Especially [since] the game was open, I just didn’t think too much and tried to put a really good swing on the fastball, and I hit a home run [each time]. I feel really happy -- also because I keep doing things that are really good for the team.”
The 25-year-old joined the company of Alex Rodriguez (who did it twice, most recently on Oct. 4, 2009), Cliff Johnson (1977), Joe Pepitone ('62), and Joe DiMaggio ('36). Coincidentally, Torres’ own skipper also accomplished the feat during his playing days, smashing a pair of long balls for the Reds in the first inning on Aug. 9, 2002.
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool,” Boone said. “One the other way and then an exclamation point on it … that makes for a good week right there.”
But that was only one aspect of Torres’ night. His 13th career multihomer game -- and third of the season -- came amid a performance in which he compiled a season-high-tying three hits, four runs scored and five RBIs, the last of which he managed for just the third time in his career. Through his first 568 games, Torres’ 13 multihomer games are the fourth most by a Yankee, trailing only Judge (15), Gary Sánchez (15) and DiMaggio (14).
Torres also now owns a season-high 10-game hitting streak, which matches the fourth longest of his career behind only a 12-game streak and two 11-game stretches. According to Yankees starter Luis Severino, who pitched five innings in his return from a two-month-long stay on the injured list, Torres has been “the hottest hitter in the game right now.” That’s saying something when they’re both teammates of Judge.
But that’s the type of tear Torres has been on recently, though he has perhaps gone under the radar. Across 16 games in September, he has produced a .313 average with a .960 OPS.
“It’s great to see Gleyber continue to play like he’s playing [and] have the kind of at-bats he’s had lately,” Boone said. “They’ve been instrumental in us kind of turning it around over the last couple of weeks. He’s been right in the middle of all that.”
Torres wouldn’t have been able to add on to those figures, however, if the rest of the Yankees’ order hadn’t kept the pressure on the Pirates in that relentless eighth inning. In between Torres’ two blasts, the Bombers drew three walks and launched a trio of run-scoring doubles, keeping the line moving as they put up a big spot in their final frame on offense for the second consecutive night.
On Tuesday, they had to. On Wednesday, they just did.
“[It’s] good to have those kinds of at-bats and pour on. You never want to take anything for granted,” Boone said. “Everyone [was] just making it difficult … and that ended up really working out for us in the end.”
For no one more so than Torres.