Aaron Judge doesn’t always come through in the biggest moments.
No baseball player does.
But some players clearly embrace them more than others, and Judge is in that category.
“Those are the situations you want to be in,” he has said more than a few times.
Judge found himself in one of those situations Thursday night against the Orioles and could not have come through in a bigger way.
The Yankees took a 5-0 lead in the first inning on Giancarlo Stanton's RBI single and Luke Voit's grand slam, but when Jonathan Loaisiga allowed the Orioles' third two-run homer of the game — Pedro Severino’s two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning — it stunningly left the Yankees with a one-run deficit against their personal punching bag and not much time to do anything about it.
Then Judge came up with one out and two on in the ninth against O’s righthander Cole Sulser.
Sulser quickly fell behind 2-and-0, and those who have watched Judge feast on get-me-over fastballs from substandard relievers the last few years had an idea of what was coming.
After the call on a close 2-and-1 pitch went Judge's way, he turned on a 3-and-1 fastball and hit a three-run homer to deep leftfield to put the Yankees ahead in their 8-6 victory, their 18th straight win overall against the Orioles and 17th in a row at Camden Yards.
“I knew this was my time to come up and forget about the past and come up big for my teammates,” Judge said. “They were counting on me. It’s times like that you got to get the job done.”
Judge, as he alluded to, had not to that point.
When the Yankees came to bat in the top of the ninth, Judge was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts (he also was hit by a pitch his first time up).
Gio Urshela immediately drew a four-pitch walk against Sulser and, after Mike Tauchman flied out on the first pitch , DJ LeMahieu sliced a single to right.
“I had a good view of DJ’s base hit to rightfield,” Judge said.
He said he had seen “a lot of pitches” to that point and sensed the issue he was having.
“I was kind of pulling off, not really staying through it in the middle of the field,” said Judge, who is hitting .263 with two homers and a .965 OPS. “Kind of seeing a nice swing from DJ locked me in. I just had to come up big.”
Judge’s big swing and ensuing big result allowed the Yankees to keep their winning streak against the Orioles intact.
Though Severino’s blast might have called that into question, that was never the case in the Yankees’ dugout.
“Absolutely not,” Aaron Boone said when asked if he ever felt the Yankees were out of it. “Guys can hurt you up and down. That was the case tonight.”
It sent the Yankees home to the Bronx with a 4-1 record for Friday night’s home opener against the Red Sox, a home opener unlike any other in the franchise’s history.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Judge said. “This team loves to play in New York, so we’re excited about that. It’s definitely going to be different, a Yankees home opener with no fans. That’s one thing I always look forward to every single year is that place gets rocking on Opening Day for us. During the intros, everything like that, it’s something special. It’s going to be different, but we’re just looking forward to sleeping in our own beds and being at home.”