The Yankees' Aaron Judge drops his bat after he struck...

The Yankees' Aaron Judge drops his bat after he struck out swinging to end the seventh inning against the Blue Jays in an MLB game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Aaron Judge entered Friday night not having hit a home run since the previous Friday in Boston, when he sent a drive onto Lansdowne Street.

Judge came into Friday hitting .295 with 46 homers, 102 RBIs and a 1.054 OPS, all of which led MLB,  In  a 22-game stretch that ended the previous Friday, he had gone 34-for-78 and recorded a .436/.573/.1.077 slash line with 15 homers and 34 RBIs. But in the six games since then, he went 2-for-21 with two RBIs and four walks.  

After Thursday night’s 9-2 loss to the Blue Jays, Aaron Boone was asked if Judge, who is trying to break Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 homers, might be “pressing” at the plate.

“No. Not at all,” Boone said. “He’s getting pitched tough right now. Just missing some balls, putting some balls on the ground that he’s just missing clipping. But I don’t sense he’s pressing.”

He added: “And I feel like he’s had some good at-bats mixed in there too . . . I feel like he’s been patient enough to where when they are not giving him anything, he’s taking his walks. But [he’s] just not in that hot streak where he’s sticking some balls. He’s probably had a few good pitches to hit over the last few days that maybe he’s fouled off and then put the ball on the ground a little bit. But I don’t think it’s a case of pressing.”

Boone rarely acknowledges it in public when he believes one of his slumping hitters is pressing, though without naming names, he indicated that has been a problem with some as his club has struggled offensively in recent weeks, .

Just not when it comes to Judge.

If there’s one player, Boone repeatedly has said this season, who would be impervious to the kind of pressure inherent in such a home run chase, it would be Judge.

“Aaron is cut out for this,” Boone said when the calendar turned to August and Judge sat at 42 homers. “If we’re a month from now, six weeks from now, and he’s knocking on the door of those kind of things, and we understand the attention that’s going to come with that, I can’t think of someone more equipped to handle it.”

The slump, if one can call six rough games a slump, is not the first one — or even the longest one — Judge has experienced this season.

He actually heard boos at the Stadium in the early going after hitting .255 with one homer, two RBIs and a .744 OPS in his first 13 games.

In the next 21 games, Judge hit .349 with 13  homers and a 1.264 OPS.

In a nine-game stretch from May 24-June 2, Judge hit .206 with two homers and a .687 OPS. He followed that with an 11-game stretch in which he hit .356 with six homers and a 1.201 OPS.

“You can’t look at it,” Judge said on July 30 after hitting his 200th career homer in a victory over the Royals. “I’ve just got to keep working hard, keep my head down and do what I can to help this team win games. At the end of the year, we can talk about what we finish at.”

Judge is having a remarkable season, one that has followed his decision to turn down the Yankees' seven-year, $213.5 million extension offered at the end of spring training. With his tough first couple of weeks, there was some speculation that perhaps the weight of entering free agency after turning down a big offer negatively impacted Judge. Those thoughts were quickly put in the rearview mirror.

“I think you can start at the start of this year with all the talk centered around the contract and how that’s affected him,” Boone said recently. “He’s built for this. I think anything you throw at him, whether he gets to a number or doesn’t get to a number, I don’t think that the circumstances and the pressure is going to be a reason he does or doesn’t.”

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