If only Aaron Judge had pulled the ball a little to the left or to the right and he would have had home run No. 60, but the superstar slugger remained stuck on 60 yet again Thursday night as his Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox in extra innings.
Judge looked as though he might have had the record-tying blast in the bottom of the ninth when he sent a shot screaming 404 feet into center field, but Kike Hernandez was able to settle under it on the warning track for an out. It was the closest that Judge had come all night to a homer after he was walked three times and struck out once in his previous plate appearances.
“Just got underneath it a little bit,” Judge said. “Pretty windy night so I was hoping maybe it was blowing out by the time I was hitting. Just missed it, but it lined up for a nice little (Josh Donaldson) walk-off.”
Donaldson drove in the winning run in the 10th inning to help clinch the Yankees a playoff spot. However, all the focus had been on Judge and his pursuit of the record.
Thursday’s game drew 43,123 fans to Yankees Stadium, all of whom had been hoping that his ninth-inning blast would have cleared the fence. Even Yankees manager Aaron Boone had been thinking that maybe the stars would align for Judge in the ninth.
“You always think that right there and what a great at-bat,” Boone said. “112 to center there. I thought it would have been pretty showy to drop it off at Monument Park out there, but probably under it just enough. 112 though, cool night. felt like fall. That might add a little factor in there, but put together a really good at bat. Probably just under it enough.”
Just hit his 60th home run on Tuesday as part of a come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, but has not been able to hit a blast since. The anticipation of the record-setting hit has made every Judge at bat a must-see event that has captivated the city.
Roger Maris’ family was on hand on Thursday night to see if Judge would hit No. 60 and the fans were ecstatic every time he stepped up to the plate. They also booed loudly every time he walked.
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Judge has increasingly seen balls outside of the strike zone when he’s been at the lately, but he didn’t feel that opposing pitchers had become more cautious with their pitches when he’s been up.
“I don’t think so. Michael Wacha does a good job of commanding the zone down and away,” Judge said. “Throwing a good sinker-changeup combo inside, so I think he was just trying to hit his spots and a little chillier today. He just missed a couple of pitches.”