Now, even Mother Nature is getting in the way of Aaron Judge’s swing at history. The Yankees slugger would have led off the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday night, but rain and lightning closed in on the Stadium and the game was delayed before Judge could get his fourth at-bat of the night. So Judge went without a homer for the fifth straight game and heads to Toronto Sunday night, one home run shy of tying the American League single-season record. A small conciliation for the 46,707 at the Stadium Sunday night, the Yankees beat the Red Sox 2-0 in a weather-shortened, six-inning game.
“I think anybody will want more at bats, but I think (if) you gonna ask everybody in that room that we’re excited we came away with a narrow victory and are one game closer to clinch in the division,” Judge said.
The Yankees (94-58) won their seventh straight game and dropped their magic number to clinch the American League East down to two. The Bombers headed north to take on the Blue Jays, who trail them by 8.5 games, on Monday with a chance to clinch the title.
Judge hit his 60th homer of the season on Tuesday, pulling within one of Roger Maris’ 61-year old record set in 1961. Maris’ children have been at Yankee Stadium waiting to congratulate Judge when he gets the record.
“You can’t think along those lines,” Judge said when asked if he was disappointed about not hitting the record-tying homer during this six-game home stand. “It’s not our last home game, so we’ll have one or two more.”
Looking ahead, that may give the home fans a chance to see history. Judge is homerless in his last eight games against the Blue Jays and has just three homers in 16 games against them this season and just one at the Rogers Centre. The Bombers return to the Bronx for a three-game series against the Orioles on Friday.
And there is the possibility that Judge could get a day in Toronto, Yankees manager Aaron Boone left that open. Judge has played every game since Aug. 5—46 games in a row— but after the game, he was adamant he has work to do.
“I’m playing until we clinch this division and put ourselves in a good spot (for the playoffs),” Judge said. “So I’m not going to be asking for a day off.”
It is just the fourth time this season he has gone five straight games with a home run. During this streak, five Yankees have hit nine home runs. Gleyber Torres has hit three. Giancarlo Stanton and Oswaldo Cabrera have each hit two and Aaron Hicks and Anthony Rizzo have one.
It’s getting harder and harder for Judge to get something to drive into the seats. Of the 81 pitches he has seen since hitting No.60 against the Pirates, there have been just 34 inside the strike zone. He has six walks and seven strikeouts in that span.
“It’s tough. I mean, you can ask any hitter around the league it’s not easy,” Judge said of hitting homers. “I think they kind of kind of happened by accident. I think more homers are more thrown than hit, to be honest. It really takes the right, in the right situation and that’s it’s tough to describe, but they just kind of happen.”
Nestor Cortes pitched six scoreless innings, allowing one hit over six innings pitched. He walked two and struck out five.
Cortes has allowed 1 hit or fewer in four starts this season, the most such starts by a Yankees pitcher in a single season, excluding openers. He has a 2.56 ERA in 27 starts this season, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau is the fourth-lowest ERA by a Yankee pitcher through their first 27 starts of a season since 1969, trailing only Ron Guidry (1.77 ERA in 1978), Steve Jack Kline (1.97 ERA in 1972) and Mel Stottlemyre Sr. (2.51 ERA in 1969).
And still, Cortes knows he was just the opening act for the sold-out stadium Sunday night.
“It’s been incredible. Fans showing up every night. Obviously they want to witness history. But I guess for us, the players it’s it’s just cool to be in the front row to all that stuff,” Cortes said of Judge’s chase.