BOSTON — Ask Aaron Judge about his massive lead in the American League’s home run and RBI races and the Yankees’ slugger echoes a thought from the great Satchel Paige, who famously remarked, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” But let’s be honest — no one is catching him there, and what’s more, a Triple Crown may now be within reach.
Judge stands four big swings away from Roger Maris’ 61-year-old AL record for home runs in a single season, belting his Major League-leading 56th and 57th home runs in the Yanks’ 7-6, 10-inning victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday at Fenway Park. Judge’s three-hit performance raised his average to .310, nine points behind AL leader Luis Arraez (.319) of the Twins.
“As a kid, you’d look up and see Albert Pujols hitting .330 every year, consistently putting up RBI numbers,” Judge said. “For me, great hitting has always been about average. I might be a little old school, but can you hit or can’t you? It’s always been a goal of mine to try to get to that point. If I’m able to do that, I’ll be helping the team, in a good spot and winning games.”
At 57, Judge has 20 more homers than anyone else in the Majors (the Nationals’ Kyle Schwarber has 37). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time a player will finish a calendar day with at least a 20-homer lead since the last day of the 1928 season, when Babe Ruth led Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson by 23 homers.
“I’m out of adjectives,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “It’s just really impressive.”
So the home run lead is safe, and Judge seems to be on solid ground in RBIs; with 123, Judge owns a 14-RBI lead on the Guardians’ José Ramírez. Judge’s average rose above .300 on Sept. 5 vs. Minnesota, though he’s still looking up at Arraez, Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox (.318) and Jose Abreu of the White Sox (.312).
It is, as Yanks ace Gerrit Cole said, “one of the most historic offensive seasons of all time.”
Miguel Cabrera won the Majors’ last Triple Crown in 2012, when the Tigers star paced the AL in average (.330), homers (44) and RBIs (139). Before then, no one had achieved the feat since Carl Yastrzemski of the 1967 Red Sox, and no Yankee has done it since Mickey Mantle in 1956.
“Some great guys have done it,” Judge said. “It’s pretty special, but I think I’m a long ways away from that.”
Gleyber Torres’ three-run, 10th inning double off Jeurys Familia stood as the deciding blow in Tuesday’s contest, with Wandy Peralta withstanding a shaky home half to squeak out a save. Judge’s big blasts (plus one from Marwin Gonzalez) got them there, helping to power New York’s seventh win in nine games.
“He’s going to free agency, and that is really good motivation for him,” Torres said of Judge. “To me, it’s not surprising. I know what type of guy he is. He knows what he’s doing. He basically hits everything. It’s really special and fun to watch.”
Judge connected for solo shots in the sixth and eighth innings, tying the game both times. No. 56 came on a hanging Nick Pivetta curveball that landed in Boston’s bullpen, coming off Judge’s bat at 109.7 mph and traveling 383 feet, as calculated by Statcast.
“Those pitches, they’re pretty slow,” Judge said. “You’ve got to try to see it pop above the zone and lay off the nasty one that looks like a heater.”
Then in the eighth, Judge was at it again, sending a Garrett Whitlock slider over the Green Monster in left field for No. 57. That one came off Judge’s bat at 100.5 mph, traveling 389 feet.
“The solo shots — obviously, it looks horrible, but we’ll take them as long as we stay in the game,” said Boston manager Alex Cora. “He’s been amazing.”
It marked Judge’s 10th multi-homer game of the season; Hank Greenberg holds the American League record with 11, set in 1938. Alex Rodriguez (2002) and Jimmie Foxx (1938) also had 10.
Judge’s 57 homers are the most ever hit by a Yankee through 145 games, ahead of the paces set by Babe Ruth (56 in 1921) and Maris (55 in 1961). He has reached base safely in 14 straight games and multiple times in 12 of those contests (.479, 23-for-48, eight homers, 14 RBIs).
Most HR in a season, MLB history — with totals through 142 team games:
2001 Barry Bonds: 73 — 60
1998 Mark McGwire: 70 — 59
1998 Sammy Sosa: 66 — 58
2022 Aaron Judge: 65 (current pace) — 57
1999 Mark McGwire: 65 — 55
2001 Sammy Sosa: 64 — 54
1999 Sammy Sosa: 63 — 59
1961 Roger Maris: 61 — 55
1927 Babe Ruth: 60 — 52
“If you’re checking the numbers, you’re going to get caught,” Judge said. “I just keep trying to do what I can do. The numbers will take care of themselves. If I have a good plan, a good approach, do what I need to do in the box — all that other stuff will show up.”