ARLINGTON — This has been a grind.
The focus has been on Aaron Judge the last two weeks as he tries to make history. Every pitch the Yankees slugger sees, his every swing and even his smiles and grimaces have been dissected. Tuesday, when Judge grounded out in the fifth, he showed no real emotion until he walked back into the dugout. He went down towards the back where the bat rack was and he slammed his batting helmet so hard into the rack it bounced out.
The Yankees hit three home runs in their 5-4 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Field in Tuesday’s first game of a day-night doubleheader, but none came off Judge’s bat. Oswald Peraza hit his first big league homer, Oswaldo Cabrera hit his sixth. Kyle Higashioka tied his career-high with his 10th homer, after not hitting one until June.
Jameson Taillon allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks over six innings. The Bombers (99-61) closed within a game of their third 100-win season in the last five years.
But, as the games remaining dwindle down to two left in the regular season, the fans, media and maybe even Judge is getting anxious to hit No. 62.
It’s been 27 plate appearances, five games and six days since Judge hit the 61st home run in Toronto that tied Roger Maris for the most single-season home runs hit in American League history.
“I’m sure he wants to hit it, but I don’t know that he has been much different than what I hear or see out of him, frankly, throughout the year,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He lets it out a little bit down there, not much typically.”
Tuesday, Judge changed his approach a little.
As if anxious to get this chase for 62 over, Judge was more aggressive Tuesday afternoon. He swung at the first pitch he saw, a 97-mile an hour fastball from right-hander Jon Gray, which he grounded out to third. Gray got him to foul off a 98-mph fastball and swing past an 84-mile an hour slider in the third inning. He flew out to right field on a 1-2 fastball. In the fifth inning, he popped up a 2-2 slider to the first baseman.
Instead, the Yankees kids’ highlighted the offense.
In the top of the eighth, Judge singled on the first pitch he saw from lefty reliever Brock Burke and the crowd responded with boos. The slugger went on to score the go-ahead run on Harrison Bader’s single.
“He’s gotten some pitches to hit here the last couple days. In general, he’s gotten a good swing off and fouled it off. And that’s usually that fine line difference between when you’re really rolling or you’re kind of just a tick off,” Boone said. “So I think he’s gotten some pitches instead of really sticking them like he has 61 times or even more, obviously, you know, he’s fouled some balls off, but I don’t think he’s far off… For everyone involved, even the pitcher, you’re now playing games that aren’t affecting the standings. It’s a little bit of an odd little wrinkle into the competition. There’s probably a little something to that too.
“But no, as far as his at-bats, where he is and where he is physically, he’s fine.”
Higashioka came up to the plate in the ninth with two outs and Judge standing on deck. When he drew a walk to extend the inning, the 30,553 here erupted in cheers.
“I think that might have been the best ovation I ever got,” Higashioka said. “It just shows how special Judge’s season has been and just how much the fans want it for him. They’re just so excited for him to get one extra chance. So I mean, I was just glad to get him up to the plate.”
Judge grounded out to the shortstop to end the top of the last inning.
Higashioka said Judge’s teammates all feel the excitement the historic season and want to play their part.
“As teammates we all want this for him,” the catcher said. “So any any chance we get to give him more opportunities, we’re definitely gonna push our hardest to get him up there.”