TORONTO — The New York Yankees clinched top spot in the American League East with a 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday but Aaron Judge’s pursuit of Roger Maris’s home run record remained stalled on 60.
Judge, who had four walks, scored twice in the win but for the seventh consecutive game the Yankees slugger was unable to equal the AL single season mark of 61 set in 1961 by Maris.
He had moved to within one last Tuesday when he joined Babe Ruth (1927), Maris, Barry Bonds (2001), Mark McGwire (1998, 1999) and Sammy Sosa (1998, 1999, 2001) as the only players to hit 60 home runs in a season.
In addition to his home run record chase, Judge is also in position to win the triple crown — leading the league in homers, runs batted in and average — a feat that has only been accomplished once since 1967 by Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.
But for a moment Judge put all that aside and soaked up the moment, along with a champagne bath, as the Yankees celebrated their first AL East title since 2019, which also comes with a Wild Card series bye.
“I’ll trade four walks for a win every single day,” said Judge.
“That’s what a baseball season is about, when you play 162 games you’re going to have those downs when things aren’t going your way, you feel you’re doing everything right but you can’t scratch out a win.
“We knew this was coming but it is only step one.”
Before arriving in Toronto on Monday for the three-game series, New York manager Aaron Boone said how proud he was of the way Judge was handling the pressure.
But with eight games remaining in the regular season that pressure is being dialled up with each missed opportunity.
The seven-game home run drought is the second longest of the season for Judge after a nine-game homerless stretch in mid-August.
Judge will get another opportunity to get the job done in Toronto on Wednesday before the Yankees return home to the Bronx for a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. They close out the regular season in Texas with four against the Rangers.
With the spotlight fully on Judge opposing pitchers have been unwilling to challenge the slugger, with Toronto starter Kevin Gausman conceding no one wants their name attached to a trivia question about who gave up his record-tying homer.
Tuesday’s game marked just the second time in his career Judge had been issued four walks. — Reuters