A successful Yankees player could go his whole career without coming close to entering the record books of the historic franchise. It took Aaron Judge half a season.
The 25-year-old rightfielder hit his league-leading 29th home run with a two-run shot to right-center in the fourth inning Wednesday against the Blue Jays. It tied Joe DiMaggio’s record for most home runs by a Yankees rookie, set in 1936 in 138 games.
“To be mentioned in the same sentence as Joe DiMaggio is incredible,” Judge said. “It’s quite an honor.”
Judge went 2-for-4 with the home run, a single, intentional walk and two strikeouts, including one that ended the 7-6 loss. He has a .331/.449/.697 slash line with 65 RBIs in 81 games, not to mention a cheering section in right field and a whole lot of hype.
But with this mark, he already has standing among the greats. Bobby Murcer is third on the list with 26, set in 1969 over 152 games. Teammate Gary Sanchez is sixth with 20 homers.
Still, it was the final at-bat, a swinging strikeout with Brett Gardner on first and the Yankees down a run in the ninth that stuck with Judge.
“It’s tough when you lose games like that — close games,” Judge said. “We battled back, we got down a little bit, but we battled back.”
Judge knocked a single to right in the fifth that loaded the bases and set up Didi Gregorius’ two-run double that gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead. When Judge came up again in the seventh, the Blue Jays avoided the situation altogether, intentionally walking him to get to Sanchez.
He has a name preceding him and the bat to back it up, but said he goes to the plate expecting to get the chance to change the game.
“Do I expect it, no. I’m thinking what am I going to that at bat,” Judge said. “What my approach is going to be. I’m not thinking about intentional walks.”
The Yankees have three games against the Brewers this weekend before the All-Star break when Judge will head to Miami looking to secure the home run derby trophy. On Wednesday, he wasn’t looking back on history or toward future accolades — just the next series.
“We just have to regroup, take this off day and get ready for the next home stand,” Judge said.