TORONTO (AP) — Aaron Judge had gone seven games since his last home run, 34 plate appearances of fans quieting to a hush and snapping photos with every pitch.
Then with the score tied in the seventh inning on Wednesday night, he drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker to left, a no doubt rocket. He had tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, what many fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard for the sport.
Judge’s two-run homer lifted the Yankees to an 8-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays and brought relief to the 6-foot-7 slugger, who admitted having to try to block out distraction.
“Getting a chance to sit at 60 for a while there with the Babe was nice,” he said, “but getting a chance to now sit at 61 with another Yankee right fielder that hit 61 home runs and MVPs, world champions, this is pretty cool.”
Judge has seven games to break the record, starting with a series opener against Baltimore at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.
His 117.4 mph drive off left-hander Tim Mayza (8-1) snapped a 3-3 tie and took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate. Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.
“Definitely some relief getting to 61. You try not to think about it, but it creeps into your head,” Judge said. “I was hoping it would get over the fence. I didn’t know at first. I didn’t want to be standing at home plate when it hits the wall.”
“We just wanted to get it in the right hands,” Romano said, prompting Judge to call it ”a classy move.”
Judge’s mother Patty and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. Judge appeared to point toward them after rounding second base.
“She’s been with me through it all, that’s for sure,” Judge said. “From the Little League days, from getting me ready for school, taking me to my first couple of practices and games, being there for my first professional game, being there for my debut, and then now getting the chance to be here for this, this is so special. We’re not done yet.”
New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge grounds out against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)