NEW YORK — During their long-awaited meeting earlier this week in the bowels of Rogers Centre, Aaron Judge shook hands with Roger Maris Jr., who advised the Yankees slugger to “knock the top off of Yankee Stadium” with his 62nd home run. That has not happened yet, but there is still time.
Judge was kept in the ballpark on Friday as the Yankees opened their final homestand of the regular season with a 2-1 loss to the Orioles. With two home games remaining, Judge is tied with Roger Maris, the Bombers right fielders both having slugged 61 home runs to share the single-season American League record.
“He does such a good job of carrying himself that it doesn’t seem like much is going on here in the clubhouse,” said reliever Ron Marinaccio. “It’s only out there with the fans and everything where it really starts to hit that this big monumental moment is happening.”
Oswaldo Cabrera provided one of the few thrills for a sellout crowd of 47,583, lofting his fifth Major League homer in the defeat. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that Cabrera’s versatility has impressed, especially his willingness to play the outfield.
“He’s someone that we were all very high on in Spring Training,” Boone said. “I certainly felt like he was a guy that could help us at any point, but I think he’s surpassed what I expected.”
DJ LeMahieu returned from the injured list, testing the right second toe injury that had kept him out of the previous 21 games. LeMahieu went hitless in three at-bats, in what is essentially an audition to see if he can play through the discomfort in his foot and swing the bat productively.
“Today was his first day getting after it, seeing live pitching,” said Boone. “More than anything, I want to see how he responds, how he feels [Saturday].”
Judge finished the evening 1-for-2 with two walks. Facing starter Jordan Lyles, Judge struck out in the first inning, singled to center field in the third and walked in the sixth. He was walked intentionally by Félix Bautista in the eighth, a move that followed a steal of second by Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
“We all want to see Judgie do it,” Boone said. “It was a pretty electric atmosphere for his first at-bat. I actually found myself nervous for his first at-bat, maybe just being all focused on it.”
As Judge seeks the Majors’ first Triple Crown since Miguel Cabrera in 2012, his batting average sits at .314, one point behind the Twins’ Luis Arraez (.315) for the AL lead. Judge leads the AL with 130 RBIs; no Yankee has won a Triple Crown since Mickey Mantle in 1956.
• Judge has work to do to reclaim Triple Crown position
“The way he carries himself makes it easy to be around and easy to enjoy,” Marinaccio said.
Domingo German started for New York and permitted two runs over 5 1/3 innings, including Ryan Mountcastle’s first-inning RBI single. German’s postseason role is uncertain after he pitched to a 3.31 ERA in 68 innings; he could be used as a starter, opener or reliever.
“If I’m healthy, I have a really good chance of helping the team,” German said through an interpreter. “Wherever there are opportunities, I’m going to be right there and try to help the team as much as I can.”
Zack Britton threw a run-scoring wild pitch in the sixth inning before leaving with left arm fatigue. The appearance was Britton’s third since returning from Tommy John surgery; the veteran left-hander has shown signs of rust in his bid to contribute to the postseason roster.