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Aaron Judge’s home run chase will bring extra buzz to the Yankees

The greatest spectacle in the world unfolded in the ninth inning, and the Yankee Stadium crowd stood and buzzed in anticipation of baseball’s most predictable outcome: Aaron Judge sending a whistle over the outfield wall.

With an over and an over, facing a full count and a chance to tie the game, the judge raised a slider from Royals reliever Taylor Clarke to that dependable old porch on the right. Almost everyone’s immediate reaction to the launch was that the gentle giant had just helped his ever-growing place in Yankee mythology with his 43rd home run of the year and his 10th in the last 10 games.

But Judge soon realized that even he can’t impose his will on every clutch situation in a sport defined by maddening failure. He scolded himself halfway through the line. Although the mighty Casey didn’t strike, he did hit what turned out to be a harmless fly ball in an 8-6 loss in four hours to a last-place team.

Three straight wins over the Royals and an 11½-game lead in the AL East didn’t stop postgame questions from focusing on Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline and the Yankees’ need with an arm or two. The fact that Clay Holmes hasn’t been the same closest indomitable lately was notarized by Salvador Perez’s decisive three-point outburst. The fact that Luis Castillo will be pitching for someone else the rest of the way will be hammered home when he takes to the mound in the Bronx this week in Seattle Mariners colors.

Does general manager Brian Cashman have a backlash to throw to give his 69-34 side an even better chance of winning it all for the first time since 2009? Said his manager, Aaron Boone: “I’m sure it’s going to be a crazy 48 hours in the baseball world.”

Judge Aaron
Corey Sipkins

And then everything will be fine. The Yankees will maintain their searing lead in the division through August and September, then determine their own legacy in October. They won’t have much to play between now and the playoffs, so they’ll need a scorching cause to wear them.

Aaron Judge’s home derby is that scorching cause.

Before Saturday, Babe Ruth was the only other Yankee to hit 42 homers in the first 102 games of a season. Before Sunday, Judge had hit 12 in 14 games, a display of raw, explosive power that even the Babe had never matched.

Judge has 59 games left to break Roger Maris’ all-time franchise record, American League record and baseball (non-PED division) record of 61. If he remains healthy, he will likely succeed . If he remains healthy, he will have an outside shot at the all-time (PED Division) baseball record of 73, held by Barry Bonds.

In 1961, Maris was competing with the revered Mickey Mantle for the right to surpass the beloved Babe for a season’s crown, and the stress of it all caused her hair to fall out. As an immensely popular slugger in a very different time and place, Judge will experience nothing like it.

“Aaron is made for this,” Boone said. “If we’re a month away, six weeks away, and he’s knocking on the door of this stuff, we understand the attention that’s going to come with it. I can’t think of anyone more equipped to handle it. And I think you can start at the start of the year with all the talk centered around the contract and how it affected him.

“He’s built for it, and I think whatever you throw at him, whether he hits a number or not, I don’t think circumstances or pressure is a reason why he does or doesn’t. ‘t.

Aaron Judge reacts after retiring the ninth inning on Sunday.
Corey Sipkins

Neither do I. The judge has the steadiest heartbeat, whether we’re talking long ball or long contract. After becoming the second-fastest major league player with 200 career homers on Saturday, Judge acknowledged the individual achievement as “something special” but was quick to focus on team-centric goals. He talked about the likelihood that pitchers would give him very little to hit and talked about his willingness to accept walks and put hitters behind him.

In round seven on Sunday, Judge did just that on a low-count slider from Brooklyn’s Jose Cuas, drawing his second walk on ground close enough to hack. Anthony Rizzo followed with a three-point shot from Dylan Coleman.

Most days in the Bronx would have been enough for the W against a really bad team. But Perez is a whale of a player who put up Judge-ian numbers last year, and Holmes’ lead isn’t flowing like it used to, and baseball is baseball. The best teams can lose any Sunday.

In the final round this Sunday, Clarke challenged Judge with a 97 mph heat before knocking him out two pitches later on the slider. “I thought Aaron was ready for this,” Boone said, “and I just missed cutting it.”

So be it. But win or lose, Judge’s home run against history will bring great significance to relatively meaningless end-of-season games. After the trade deadline, the big man will make everything around him feel bigger over the past two months.

And that can only be a good thing for a team desperate to win the biggest prize of them all.

New York Post

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