Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge reacts in the dugout after...

Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge reacts in the dugout after his solo home run against the Twins in the fourth inning during the first game of an MLB doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

You would think carrying an entire franchise on his back, as Aaron Judge is doing with the Yankees this season, would get awfully heavy by September,

But if Judge is straining under that tremendous weight, especially during the team’s recent slippage atop the AL East, it doesn’t show. And what he’s trying to accomplish during these final few weeks makes the MVP debate feel almost mundane in the context of his nightly duties.

It’s difficult enough that Judge shares an injury-shredded lineup with a handful of freshly-promoted RailRiders sprinkled among bench fill-ins. For Thursday’s series finale against the Twins, Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the cleanup hitter, followed by Marwin Gonzalez and Miguel Andujar. That’s a shaky bottom third, never mind middle of the order.

Judge was sandwiched between leadoff man Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres, the only semblance of protection available. But that’s merely a fraction of the pressure facing Judge on a daily basis. There’s also his accelerating pursuit of Roger Maris, who some maintain still holds the majors’ single-season home run record of 61, based on his “clean” designation.

I’m not one of those people. Like it or not, Judge needs to topple Barry Bonds at 73 to earn that distinction. As long as MLB recognizes Bonds as the record-holder, that’s the official bar. Case closed.

But chasing down Maris is plenty on Judge’s plate, to go with the Yankees’ tentative grip on the division lead and what is likely to be an intensifying struggle to see strikes in the weeks ahead with the lineup in shambles. Still, no matter how much the media presses Judge on these issues — and we do, nearly every day — he shrugs all of it off while maintaining his unblinking focus stays constant.

Take Wednesday, for instance. Judge, surrounded by his new Scranton buddies, smacked No. 55 in the first game of a doubleheader, then was walked five times by the Twins, including three intentionally. The Yankees swept both games, and Judge went through the usual drill afterward, handling questions about moving one step closer to Maris and the reality of being pitched around due to the lack of other threats currently wearing pinstripes.

The Maris thing typically kicks things off, and for Judge, what’s left to say? Barring some unforeseen calamity, it’s a safe bet Judge not only will get to 61, but pass Maris for the Yankees’ and AL record. Judge has homered in four of his last five games, six of nine, seven of 12 and nine of 15. Before that stretch, we described his nine-game homerless streak — the longest for him this season — as a “drought,” a characterization he scoffed at.

Judge repeatedly deflects the Maris thing, citing the home-run mark as a personal achievement secondary to the Yankees’ primary mission: clinching the division, then getting to the World Series and claiming title No. 28. It’s a cliched response, but with Judge, who’s been flawless on the public stage, it comes off as more sincere. And his unflappable demeanor is not as easy as he makes it look.

“That’s who he is,” manager Aaron Boone said before Thursday’s game. “He’s totally equipped for all this. And I think his biggest goal is to be a great teammate and to win. Couple that with being a smart, talented guy, and that keeps it really simple, right? I’m showing up here to be the best teammate and to try to win a game. And when you keep it that simple, and you’re as good as he is, this is what the results can be.”

Remember when Judge’s free-agent status was supposed to be the dominant narrative this season? Instead, that conversation has been shelved in light of his more pressing responsibilities. Judge is going to be extremely rich at season’s end, and in our view, with Hal Steinbrenner writing the check.

Is that part of Judge’s motivation? No doubt. But he’s also driven to pushing these Yankees into the playoffs, and propelling them as far as possible through October. It’s all intertwined, of course. But not every player can thrive amid such crushing expectations. And Judge isn’t fazed by tossing Scranton’s stars on his shoulders for however long it takes. With DJ LeMahieu landing on the IL Thursday because of his toe issues and Anthony Rizzo still at home trying to shake of epidural-related headaches, Judge’s load doesn’t figure to get much lighter down the stretch.

“Doesn’t matter if our big guys are here or not,” Judge said. “We’re the New York Yankees. When we walk out there, we got the pinstripes on, wearing the NY, and every single guy that walks in this clubhouse is going to do their job.”

Judge is the biggest guy, and fortunately for the Yankees, he’s not shrinking from the challenge.

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