The biggest hit at Fenway Park, compared to Tuesday night’s game, came later, from the bat of Gleyber Torres. He cleared the bases and gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead in the 10th inning, and they held on for a 7-6 victory that helped the Red Sox dive a little deeper into their deep winter slumber.
It was a nice footnote. An afterthought.
This, as much as anything, tells you about the rarefied place Aaron Judge now occupies. It’s supposed to be anathema, a mortal sin, to imply that a player is greater than The Game. But that’s what Judge is now. That’s who Judge has been throughout this magnificent season. He’s bigger than any game he plays.
Judge hit two more home runs, No. 56 and No. 57, gradually bringing him closer to Roger Maris. Only four men in American League history — an operation that dates back only to 1901 — have hit more home runs in a season than Judge: Hank Greenberg, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth (twice) and Maris. And Judge has another 20 games to inflate that number and send him into space.
But that’s not all. As has been the case for most of the year, Judge’s homers have been essential, they have been lifeblood for the Yankees. The first, a cannon shot the other way to the deeply heartbreaking Fenway power alley on the right, tied the score at 3-3 in the sixth inning. The second, splashed on the green monster on the left, tied the score at 4-4 in the eighth.
The judge’s last at-bat came in the 10th inning. There were two outs and a man on third with the score tied, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora got four fingers up before Judge even stepped out of the circle on the deck. You wonder if it won’t be a more common occurrence in the final weeks of the season, with managers deciding that discretion is the best part of bravery.
You hope not, though.
Because every batting the rest of the way will be an event. They are going to be a staple on TV. If you’re a Yankees fan – or just a baseball fan – it’s impossible not to want to see every field. Because every time he swings the bat, something glorious and spectacular could happen.
It’s almost a surprise when he doesn’t go deep.
“No matter how many home runs he ends up hitting, I don’t think it’s that important to him,” Judge manager Aaron Boone said before the game. “He knows where we are. It’s about going out and winning the baseball game. I think when you have that really simple mindset and approach, it makes the game a lot easier.
It’s the most amazing part of Judge’s season, when you think about it. We all know, in law, that hitting a baseball this well, this far, this often, is perhaps the hardest thing to do in sports. Yet when the judge swings, and when he connects, and when he sends his majestic explosions to the far reaches of the ballparks throughout the game, it really looks…
Ridiculously easy. Incredibly easy.
“When we win and get first place, it’s always fun, it’s been a fun year,” Judge said. “The numbers will take care of themselves.”
It should no longer be a matter of debate if the judge were to win the MVP; the only question is whether he gets all 30 first-place votes, earns the maximum 420 voting points. Shohei Ohtani, the only name weakly dismissed as a competition, did it last year, and as supernatural as this season was his team still went 77-85.
The Yankees are now 86-56. They are back to 30 games above .500, back to a comfortable lead atop the AL East with days disappearing from the schedule. There’s little mystery why they jumped in early and survived lately: because they have Judge as their roster anchor. And no one else does.
“I have no more adjectives.” Boon said.
At the end of his dream run in 1961, Roger Maris took the day off in the 159th game of the season, causing an earthquake. He was sitting on 60 home runs. How could he lose four at bats? The way he is, Judge can expect a day off or thereabouts at that time, and no one will complain much.
Unless by then Barry Bonds 73 is still in sight. It probably won’t. But are you betting against it?
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