Aaron Judge hit his walk-off three-run home run well into the visitor’s bullpen in the 10th inning Sunday, and as he rounded first base, he looked back into the home dugout and nearly turned around. The winning run would score regardless, and if he wanted, he could stop and celebrate right then and there — the extra 270 feet an awful long way to go to get mobbed by your teammates.
Never mind that Judge leads the major leagues with 28 home runs, and never mind that all numbers count when you might be hitting free agency at the end of the year. On Sunday, there was only the moment — a 6-3 comeback win over the Astros in a game in which they didn't record a hit until the seventh a day after being held hitless.
Judge eventually did end up touching them all — first-base coach Travis Chapman shooing him around the bases — and he got his mob at home plate, all celebrating his second walk-off hit in four games (the other, a single on Thursday).
It was the Yankees' major league-leading 22nd comeback win of the year and 10th walk-off win of the year. Three of those walk-offs belong to Judge. The most walk-offs in a season is 18, accomplished by the Pirates in 1959, according to baseball historian Katie Sharp.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is, what’s happened the night before [or] in the series; any time we get up there and we’ve got a chance to hit, we’ve got a chance to win a ballgame,” said Judge, who has 27 homers and 54 RBIs in his last 58 games. “These guys, they never waver.”
They had every reason to, really.
The Astros scored on Nestor Cortes’ first pitch — Jose Altuve hit his 15th homer of the season — and Mauricio Dubon added a two-run single in the fourth after Cortes retired the first two batters in the inning.
Astros righthander Jose Urquidy didn’t allow a hit until there was one out in the seventh, extending the Yankees’ hitless streak to 16 1/3 innings. They hadn't had a hit since DJ LeMahieu's leadoff single in the eighth on Friday. When Anthony Rizzo lined out to begin the seventh, the Yankees had been held hitless in their last 53 at-bats, and the murmurings were starting. No team has ever been held hitless in back-to-back games, and something like that happening to the best team in baseball right now would have been nothing short of shocking.
But on the first pitch to Giancarlo Stanton, Urquidy was kind enough to gift-wrap a 91.9-mph fastball down the middle that Stanton drove 436 feet onto the netting above Monument Park just to the left of the Yankees' bullpen to make it 3-1.
Urquidy was done after seven, having allowed just the one hit, and the Yankees pounced on reliever Phil Maton in the eighth. With one out, Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled to left, and one out later, LeMahieu put a charge in the righthander’s 2-and-2 slider, pulling it 386 feet to left for a tying two-run homer.
“We noticed the innings piling up for sure,” Stanton said of the hitless streak. “You can’t panic in that time. We were heading into the seventh and we ended up winning the game . . . If you give up in the eighth, if you give up with five outs left, with two outs left, it’s giving them an advantage. As long as we’ve got an out left, we’ve got a chance to win.”
With one out in the ninth, Gleyber Torres walked, stole second and went to third when Jason Castro sailed his throw into centerfield. But on 3-and-2, Aaron Hicks struck out on a 101-mph fastball from Ryne Stanek, and when Torres sprained his ankle as he tried to get back to third and was unable to get up, Castro picked him off to end the inning.
The Astros loaded the bases against Michael King with one out in the 10th, courtesy of an error and a walk. King got Kyle Tucker to fly out to shallow left and Yuli Gurriel to hit a foul pop to first to scamper out of the jam with the score still tied.
That set the stage for Judge, who, with two outs and runners at the corners, blasted a 417-foot no-doubter off Seth Martinez to left-center. Righthanded hitters had been 4-for-36 against Martinez this season, but then again, this was not your average righthanded hitter.
“I told him, I gotta quit taking him for granted again,” Aaron Boone quipped. “What I marveled at was how easy a swing it was. He was just trying to touch the ball and obviously there’s power there and he was able to ride it out.”
Even when the bats went silent, Boone said, there was never a sense of panic.
“That group’s unfazed,” he said. “It’s a great, tough room with a lot of resolve and [they] know what the mission is. They understand that there’s going to be bumps and hiccups and adversity with any game, or within a series, within a week, whatever, and they’re equipped to handle it . . . I think what we’ve shown each other is that they can win games in a lot of different ways and that, I think, has bred a lot of confidence.”
Having a guy like Judge certainly helps.