New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is on the brink of Major League Baseball history after smashing his 60th home run of the season.
The solo blast to left-centerfield off Pittsburgh’s Wil Crowe in the bottom of the ninth helped spark a Yankees fightback Tuesday when Giancarlo Stanton belted a grand slam homer to give New York a 9-8 victory over the Pirates.
“There was some kind of magical spark in that inning,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “That was a special one.”
Judge matched Babe Ruth’s career high of 60 homers in a season from 1927 and moved one shy of the team and American League record for homers in a campaign, the 61 hit by Roger Maris in 1961 — 61 years ago.
“It’s an incredible honor and something I don’t take lightly at all,” Judge said.
“When you talk about Ruth and Maris and (Mickey) Mantle and all these Yankees greats, you never imagine as a kid getting mentioned with them.”
The feat came in his 147th game of the campaign, which puts him on pace for 66 homers for the entire season.
Only Barry Bonda, who set the MLB record with 73 homers in the 2001 season, and Mark McGwire, who smashed 70 in 1998, produced more homers in as many games to start a season.
Judge has five homers in his past six games and three in his past two contests.
The 30-year-old outfielder also leads the American League with 128 runs batted in and a .316 batting average, together with his epic homer total giving him a chance at the first Triple Crown since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera led the AL in all three areas in 2012.
“I haven’t really been thinking about numbers or stats and stuff like that,” Judge said. “I’m going out there trying to help my team win.”
At 89-58, the Yankees lead the American League East division by 5.5 games over Toronto.
Stanton admires the focus Judge has shown.
“He’s zoned in and he has plenty of at-bats to go,” Stanton said. “The more he does, the more we’re going to win and the more he’s going to achieve history.”
Fans have filled Yankee Stadium to watch Judge chase history, including a 20-year-old college student who ended up with the 60th-homer ball and gave it to security guards for souvenirs and a chance to meet Judge.
“To get a chance to play baseball at Yankee Stadium, in a packed house for a first-place team, that’s what you dream about,” Judge said.
“I love every second of it. I’m trying to enjoy it all and soak it all in, but I know I’ve still got a job to do out in the field, every single day.
“I’ve just got to keep my head down, keep preparing and stay mentally focused.”