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Aaron Judge joins Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth with 17 homers in first 42 games – The Denver Post

Aaron Judge has already accomplished a myriad of things with the Yankees.

By hitting his 16th and 17th homers of the season on Monday night, he achieved another impressive feat, something Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Reggie Jackson have never done.

With 17 homers in the team’s first 42 games, Judge joined an exclusive roster. Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Tino Martinez are the only other Bombers to hit 17 homers in the team’s first 42 games of a season.

The 17 home runs also give Judge the current Major League lead by a long shot. Going into Tuesday, the next closest player is Yordan Alvarez of Houston with 12. Judge also hits .325 – well above his career average of .279 – and trails only Mike Trout for the league lead in OPS. Per Wins Above Replacement, only Manny Machado has been better this season.

With two homers, three RBIs and a walk Monday, Judge had a better night than some hitters in a week. Nobody understands how hot he is like the men who share a dugout with him, and they’re just as stunned as the rest of us. Asked about Judge’s current run (he has an .829 hitting percentage in May, smashing 11 home runs in 20 games), Gerrit Cole couldn’t help but smile appreciatively.

“Sometimes I feel like he’s salivating for something, he gets it and he drills it,” Cole said of Judge’s approach to home plate. “And then sometimes I feel like he’s just a good baseball player, stays in the middle, and then trains the same way.”

Of his 49 hits, 24 were singles, eight were doubles and 17 went over the wall, including six that went to right field or right center.

“He’s not looking for the balls all the time, he just puts better swings on the balls than the guys are throwing,” Cole said.

“It’s really special,” Aaron Boone said, repeating that phrase twice. “I take it for granted sometimes, I think. But not right now. He is really carrying us offensively at the moment.

The Yankees have hit their first real hurdle of the year, not only losing three straight games for the first time in 2022, but also losing several key players. Barring a medical miracle, they won’t get vital reliever Chad Green back from Tommy John surgery for at least 12 months. Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga, two guys they look to for stability, were treated very badly by opposing hitters. Injured pitchers Domingo German and Zack Britton haven’t pitched at all for the Bombers this season.

And on the heels of his “Jackie” saga — which has certainly affected the clubhouse, even if the Yankees have played it down — Josh Donaldson joined Joey Gallo and Kyle Higashioka on the COVID injured list on Monday.

In other words, the Yankees aren’t complete right now. With three of their regular position players all on COVID IL in the same week, Isiah Kiner-Falefa was forced to hit fifth on Monday night. The shortstop known primarily for his glove hadn’t started a single game for the Yankees above seventh place until this avalanche began.

It presents a perfect example of why it’s so useful to have Judge, who is neck and neck with Trout in the first race for American League MVP. Adding to the list of jaw-dropping stats from the judges, he is the only player in franchise history to have nine three-RBI performances in the team’s first 42 games. He is the second player to win four games with multiple home runs in the top 42, an honor he shares with Ruth.

“I have a job to do at the top of the roster,” Judge said. “I have a lot of good hitters around me, which makes my job a lot easier.”

In 2017, Judge’s best full season in the big leagues, the protection immediately after him in the roster was often Matt Holliday, Didi Gregorius and/or Starlin Castro. As a result, Judge recorded an 18.7% walk rate, the tenth-highest of any skilled Yankee hitter in the integration era. Teams were rarely encouraged to feature him, as they knew the quality of the Bombers roster diminished as soon as he left the box.

Now, with Judge settling into both holes with Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton generally behind him, the price of the #99 walk gets higher. Teams can’t afford to throw around him nearly as much as they used to, and because of that, Judge walks 11.0% of the time he comes to bat this season. It’s a good thing for the Yankees in many ways. First, an 11% walk rate is still elitist (the league average is currently 8.5%), but the Yankees would definitely prefer to see him run around all four bases rather than one.

Getting their best player to hit more shots is a tasty recipe for success and one of the many reasons the team arrived Tuesday with the second best overall offense in the AL, behind Trout’s Angels.

If Judge continues at this rate, the Yankees won’t be trailing a team any longer, whether on the stats, the scoreboard during games, or in the fight for baseball’s best record.

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