The Yankees' Aaron Judge is greeted in the dugout after...

The Yankees' Aaron Judge is greeted in the dugout after his two-run home run against the Orioles during the fifth inning of an MLB game at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Gerrit Cole sputtered a little when he contemplated it, trying out the question in his mouth, not really sure how to formulate an answer: What stands out about the tear Aaron Judge has been on?

The Yankees ace stopped, started and thought about it some more, and after about 15 seconds, tried his hardest to give context to something that seems bigger than words. Eventually, after a little explanation, he settled on what sounded right: “He’s just better.”

For all of Judge’s great accomplishments this season, it sometimes does feel as simple as that. There are no earth-shattering adjustments to his swing, and it’s not as if Judge was anything resembling a slouch in seasons past. This red-hot start is what many expect of Judge, but with a little extra oomph.

With his two homers in the Yankees' 6-4 loss to the Orioles on Monday night, he built on his major-league-best total, now up to 17 for the season. He’s only the fifth Yankee to hit 17 homers in the team’s first 42 games.

The history doesn’t stop there. It was the 20th multihomer game of his career, second only to Ralph Kiner as the player to get to that number the fastest. Judge has four multihomer games this season, making him the second Yankee to accomplish that feat by Game 42. The other is Babe Ruth.

Judge has hit safely in 21 of his last 25 games and is first in the majors in slugging (.715) and second in OPS (1.113), trailing only Mike Trout (1.133). By the time the dust settled on his day Monday — 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs — he had a .325/.398/.715 slash line. 

He has hit seven homers in his last 11 games, 13 in his last 22 and 16 in his last 27. In those 27 games, he is hitting .356 with 32 of his 34 RBIs. In his last 22 games, he has driven in three runs six times and knocked in four runs twice.

“Sometimes I feel like he’s salivating for something and gets it and drills it, and sometimes I feel like he’s just being a good baseball player staying up the middle and then drills it the same way,” Cole said. “[It’s not] like all the things are going his way and he’s not looking for slug all the time. He’s just putting better swings on balls. He’s just putting better swings than guys are throwing. He’s just better.

"I think, for example, the first home run was a pretty well-executed fastball that [Orioles starter Jordan] Lyles was trying to get up in there.”

That’s about as good (or as much) an explanation as anyone would give. Asked about his tear, Judge did the verbal equivalent of shrugging. 

“I’m just trying to do my job, just like everybody else in this building,” he said, as if he gets up every day and punches a time card rather than routinely rocketing balls somewhere in the vicinity of the moon. “I’ve got a job to do at the top of the lineup. I’ve got a lot of great hitters around me, which makes my job a lot easier.”

His accomplishments are even more impressive, though, when put in context. This was the year Judge bet on himself, declining the Yankees' offer of an extension and putting him in line to hit free agency in the offseason. He left a seven-year, $213.5 million deal on the table, and if this keeps up, whatever Judge was actually asking for before the season might end up looking like a bargain. 

“It’s really special,” manager Aaron Boone said of what he is seeing. “I sometimes take it for granted, I think, but not right now. He’s a really special player.”

When the accomplishments seem to defy description, sometimes the simplest words will have to do.

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