As Aaron Judge walked across the Yankees’ clubhouse, Didi Gregorius shouted “All rise!’’ It was a humorous though apropos comment after his rookie teammate again commanded attention for his day’s work at Yankee Stadium.
On Saturday, Judge essentially became a phenom. His 10th home run in his 21st game, a two-run shot in the seventh inning, made him only the third player in franchise history to have at least 10 in the months of March and April. Alex Rodriguez (14) and Graig Nettles (11) were the others. Judge is the second Yankee to hit at least 10 homers at age 25 in the first 22 games of the season, joining Mickey Mantle. He is tied with Oakland’s Khris Davis for the American League lead.
And he could have — possibly should have — had 11, but a fan who interfered with Judge’s drive off Adam Wainwright on April 16 turned a potential home run into a triple.
But there are loftier numbers in sight, and the intrigue comes with each at-bat. “Yeah, you kinda wonder what he’s going to do,’’ Joe Girardi said after the Yankees’ 12-4 victory over the Orioles. Judge’s homer into the bleachers above the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center capped a game in which he had two hits, walked twice, scored four times and raised his batting average to .301.
Judge’s homer came on an 0-and-1 pitch from Jayson Aquino. “Just something out over the plate,’’ Judge said. “To be honest, I was just kind of sitting location. The whole series they’ve been kind of working me in and out, in and out. I kind of noticed this game [they were] trying to go outer third, so I just tried to stick to the location and went after it.’’
Yankees fans haven’t seen a player the likes of this since . . . rookie Gary Sanchez in 2016. He had 20 home runs in 53 games.
“Did I expect 10 home runs? No,’’ Girardi said. “I don’t think I’d expect that from anyone. We’ve watched Sanchy do it. I don’t think I would expect it from him last year. It’s been fun to watch, I’ll tell you that . . . I’m not sure you really expect 10 home runs from anybody in a month. I mean, that’d be 60 a year.’’
The rookie record for home runs is 49, set by Mark McGwire in 1987. What does Judge think about hitting 60?
“Anything’s possible,’’ he said. “If we just keep winning, I’ll take it. You’re going to have those times when you go 0-for-20, 0-for-30. I’m hitting the ball well right now. It’s all about just staying even keel. For me, it’s just baseball. You’re going to have times where you get to the plate and the baseball’s going to look like a golf ball up there. And then you’re going to have times when you’re up there and everything is looking right down the middle. That’s baseball. You’re going to have those times. I’m really just coming out here, making adjustments, getting comfortable with the league, just trying to be consistent.’’
Someone jokingly mentioned to Judge that he is on pace to hit 74 homers, one more than Barry Bonds’ single-season record in 2001. “We’ll see what happens,’’ Judge said before quickly adding, “You guys are too much, man.’’
Judge is getting used to the daily media attention. “The Yankees prepare us well for this, from Day 1,’’ he said. “After you get drafted, you have media training on just how to handle everything, the ups and the downs. This is New York. This is the biggest market, people watch us, people love the Yankees, so you get prepared for it. So when this moment comes, it’s just a regular day.’’