Moments after collecting his first career walk-off hit to send the Yankees into the playoffs, Aaron Judge was having a tough time staying as stone-faced as he usually is when facing the New York media.
“We got a spot in the playoffs,” he said with a hint of relief. “All you have to do is get in.”
That smile continued, but the message became much more stern as the Yankees’ star tried to balance clinching a spot in Tuesday night’s Wild Card — the highest point in a tumultuous season so far — with the classic ideology that a completely different animal that is the postseason is nigh.
“You have to enjoy those moments and enjoy those experiences,” Judge said. “Very few guys get a chance to play in the major leagues and have those opportunities to celebrate with their teammates. You grind out 162 games and get this opportunity to continue playing into October, it’s something special.
“You never want to take it for granted… We know our ultimate goal is not just to get in… now it’s time to go back to work. Now the season begins. All that other stuff, that 162, that was spring training… Now it’s time to get this rolling.”
Judge and the Yankees only have one shot to keep their stay in the postseason alive as they head to Boston to meet the rival Red Sox at Fenway Park in the single-elimination Wild Card Game on Tuesday night. The winner will advance to play the AL East-champion and defending pennant-winning Tampa Bay Rays in the best-of-five ALDS.
“That’s going to be a fun game right there. It’s going to be action-packed,” Judge said. “They’re going to bring their A-Game. We’re going to bring our A-Game. It’s just going to be another great game in this big rivalry that we have and we’re looking forward to it.
“We love playing at home, but we’re excited anywhere we went. Getting a chance to go to Boston to play it is an exciting matchup for sure.”
As for just how far this team can go, Judge is still trying to quantify that as a road to a deep postseason stay runs directly through the American League East.
I don’t even know where to start with that. We have a great starting rotation, our bullpen is fantastic. Even our offense… a lot of tough outs,” Judge said. “If you’re able to do that in the postseason and wear teams down, you can go far.”