The Yankees' Aaron Judge hits a three-run home run off...

The Yankees' Aaron Judge hits a three-run home run off a pitch by Athletics starting pitcher JP Sears during the fifth inning at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. on Friday. Credit: PA-EFE/Shutterstock/John G Mabanglo

OAKLAND, Calif. — The number 50 didn’t consume Aaron Judge’s thoughts the first time he pursued that home run plateau  during his breakout American League Rookie of the Year season in 2017.

Unsurprisingly, not much has changed five years later. Judge, currently the runaway favorite for AL MVP, found himself one homer shy of that mark going into Saturday night’s game against the A’s.

What  does the 50-homer mark mean to him? Nothing,” Judge said late Friday night  after hitting his MLB-leading 49th homer in a 3-2 victory over the A’s.  “It’s just another number. Happy to get another win, keep this winning streak going and just provide some runs for the great start that [Gerrit] Cole had today. That was pretty impressive to watch.”

Compare that with Judge’s comments on Sept. 25, 2017, after hitting his 49th and 50th homers in a victory over the Royals, which set the then-rookie record for homers (he wound up with 52, since broken by the Mets' Pete Alonso, who hit 53 in 2019). Judge referenced the record in responding to a question about the possibility of winning the 2017 AL MVP (he finished second to Houston’s Jose Altuve).  

“I haven’t really thought about it, just like the [rookie home run] record. I don’t try to think about that,” Judge said that late September afternoon at the Stadium. “Especially with what this team’s got going on with this playoff push. That’s more important to me. I’d rather be in a good position in the playoffs and holding up a World Series trophy than an AL MVP trophy.”

Judge is the last American Leaguer to hit 50 in a season. The previous Yankee to hit that many before him was Alex Rodriguez, who had 54 in 2007.  

Judge, currently on pace to hit 63 homers — which would break Roger Maris' AL record of 61 set 61 years ago in 1961 — grew up a little more than an hour from the Oakland Coliseum in Linden, California. Though not a true homecoming in the fan’s sense of the word — Judge grew up a fan of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers — he did allow that hitting No. 49 here held some significance for him, given the number of family and friends who attend his games in the Bay Area.

“Whenever the Yankees are coming to town, you want to put on a show for everybody, so that's kind of my main focus,” said Judge, who entered Saturday night's game one home run shy of becoming the 10th player in MLB history to post multiple 50-homer seasons. “If we can roll out of here with a couple wins in front of my hometown friends that I don't get a chance to see, that's all I care about. They can watch it on TV, but it's good to come through with a couple of wins for them in person.”

Notice Judge said “wins” and not “home runs,” or anything else having to do with individual accomplishments. It's been a Jeter-ian consistency in his public verbiage since his rookie season.

But while Judge, who also brought an MLB-leading 109 RBIs into Saturday’s action, steers clear of the superlatives when it comes to his on-field performance, that is far from the case throughout the clubhouse.  

“For me, it’s really special,’’ Cole said Friday after allowing one run and three hits in 7 1/3 innings in which he struck out 11. “I get to have the best seat in the house every night for the Aaron Judge Show, which is one of a kind right now.”

After a victory over the Royals on July 30 at the Stadium, a game in which Judge hit No. 42, Nestor Cortes  provided one of the lines of the year regarding the outfielder.

"It's incredible. I know every night, everybody's expecting a home run from him," Cortes said before pausing.

He added with a smile: "I mean, we are."

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