BALTIMORE — After watching Aaron Judge nearly hit one out of Seattle’s Safeco Field in July 2017, Yankees reliever David Robertson offered a comment on the then-rookie that easily could sum up his career to this point.
“It’s not fair,” Robertson said that night in Seattle. “It’s like he’s playing on a Little League field. I’ve never seen anyone hit a ball like that. I don’t know what to say.”
Judge continues to leave many on his team speechless.
He crushed a pair of home runs — the second a rocket that traveled an estimated 465 feet — in the Yankees' 7-6 victory over the Orioles on Friday night at Camden Yards. That increased Judge’s MLB-leading total to 36. Entering Saturday's action, the Phillies' Kyle Schwarber was next with 30, with the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez the runner-up to Judge in the American League with 28.
“What more can you say? He’s been the best player in the league,'' manager Aaron Boone said. "Tonight, the way he hit those balls, it’s just really impressive what he continues to do. A great play in centerfield [a diving catch in the fourth inning] that was timely. He’s just doing a little bit of everything.”
Judge’s second blast carried over both bullpens — they are situated side-by-side, with the visitors' bullpen slightly raised over the Orioles’ — and landed in an area that doesn’t see many baseballs.
In real games or even in batting practice.
“Him and Giancarlo [Stanton], when they really step [into one], I try and calm myself just so I can take the flight in and take it all in,'' Boone said. "To go up to where he did, on a changeup like that, it’s just different.”
Judge’s two blasts Friday gave him six in his last seven games and an MLB-leading eight multi-homer games this season. He became the fifth Yankee to accomplish that feat, joining Babe Ruth (1927), Mickey Mantle (1961), Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Gleyber Torres (2019). He has 24 multi-homer games in his career, the sixth-most in franchise history, trailing Ruth (68), Mantle (46), Lou Gehrig (43), Joe DiMaggio (35) and Rodriguez (29).
Speaking of 1961, Judge came into Saturday on pace for 61 homers, which would match Roger Maris’ total from 61 years ago. A big-leaguer hasn’t hit 60 homers in a year since Barry Bonds hit 73 and Sammy Sosa had 64 in 2001.
Judge, who had an RBI double in the first inning Saturday night, has accomplished this despite a relatively slow start. After managing only one homer, two RBIs and a .744 OPS in his first 13 games, he had 35 homers, 75 RBIs and a 1.043 OPS in his last 79 games entering Saturday.
“At the rate he’s going, he could definitely accomplish anything,” Jameson Taillon said. “The impressive thing about him is he comes in and puts just super-professional at-bats together every night. He waits for the pitcher to make a mistake and he jumps on it. It doesn’t seem to be in his head or anything.”
His home run total doesn’t appear to be on Judge’s mind at all.
“There’s no need,” he said of looking at the home run leaderboard. “It’s not what I’m getting paid to do. I’m getting paid to help the Yankees win games, so that’s what I try to focus on. I look more at the standings than anything.”
Taillon said Judge’s season is all the more remarkable considering the approach he sees day in and day out from opposing team pitchers.
“He’s got one of the best swings in the game, and any time he barrels a ball, it can go really far,” Taillon said. “It’s fun to watch. He gets attacked with everyone’s best stuff every night and he’s still doing what he’s doing, which is even more impressive. Like I always think people throw a little harder against the Yankees, they see Aaron Judge in the box, and they throw a little harder. And he’s still doing what he’s doing. It’s pretty cool to watch.”