NEW YORK — The dream scenario was for Aaron Judge to hit his 62nd home run at Yankee Stadium, the brightness of his white pinstripes eclipsed only by the flashes from digital devices, all held high in hopes of recording history. Alas, if and when that moment occurs, it will be some 1,500 miles southwest in Texas.
Judge’s quest to surpass Roger Maris with a record-breaking home run in front of a Bronx crowd fell short, as the slugger struck out three times with a walk and the Yankees concluded their regular-season home schedule with a 3-1 loss to the Orioles on Sunday.
“It’d be nice to hit it at home and do something special like that for the home fans, but at the end of the day, I’ve got a job to do,” Judge said. “I’ve got to get ready for the postseason. It didn’t happen [at Yankee Stadium]but the season’s not over yet.”
After days of tossing his bat aside at an unappetizing buffet of sliders and fastballs outside the strike zone, Judge saw a few pitches to hit on Sunday. None were put in play; facing Baltimore starter Kyle Bradish, Judge struck out looking in the first inning, whiffed in the third, then worked a five-pitch walk in the fifth to extend his on-base streak to 30 games.
An opportunity to witness Judge trot to first base with a free pass was not what drew 44,322 fans to the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue on an overcast, chilly afternoon, of course. The crowd jeered Bradish for each pitch that didn’t groove down Broadway, then sighed when Judge struck out against reliever Bryan Baker in the seventh inning.
“It would have been amazing, but it’s really hard to hit a home run,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “A lot of things have to sync up for even the greatest of the great to go deep. So, obviously, it would have been great here, but we’ll move on.”
Having hit 30 of his 61 homers this season at Yankee Stadium, it’s now wheels up to Arlington for Judge and the Yankees. The club has four regular-season games remaining, opening a road series with the Rangers on Monday. Boone has said that he is unsure if Judge will play in all four games; a doubleheader is scheduled for Tuesday.
“I’d like to play every day; maybe not both of the doubleheader games,” Judge said. “We’ve got quite a few days off after the season for the Wild Card [Series to be played] and leading up to the ALDS. That’s when I’ll rest.”
In addition to the single-season American League home run record, Judge is in contention for the Majors’ first Triple Crown since 2012 and the first by a Yankee since Mickey Mantle in 1956. Judge’s hitless performance Sunday dropped his batting average to .311; the Twins’ Luis Arraez is first with a .315 mark.
“A Triple Crown would be amazing,” Judge said. “I think we’re still a long way from that. We’ll see how these next four games go.”
From the Yankees’ perspective, Judge’s at-bats were the most compelling reason to observe Sunday’s game, with the American League East clinched and the rest of the roster in tune-up mode for the playoffs. If not for Judge, a forecast of inclement weather might have tempted cancellation; instead, the clubs played through light to steady precipitation.
Those incoming remnants from Hurricane Ian prompted the Yankees to hand the baseball to right-hander Chi Chi González instead of Luis Severino, whose scheduled outing was delayed until Monday. González allowed only one run over 4 2/3 innings, delighted by a reunion with catcher Jose Trevino, a teammate with the Rangers and Oral Roberts University.
“Jose makes every pitcher out there feel confident and comfortable,” González said.
The image of rookie reliever Ron Marinaccio exiting with an eighth-inning injury understandably sent shockwaves through the Yankees’ universe, especially after it was revealed that closer Clay Holmes has a right shoulder strain that will shelve him until the ALDS.
Boone revealed that Marinaccio has been battling a sore right shin for most of the season, and the team did not want him to go any further in a contest that had no bearing on the standings. Marinaccio will undergo an MRI on Monday and believes the issue is manageable.
“We got a bunch of tests earlier in the year, and everything was fine. I’m pretty confident that it’ll be similar,” Marinaccio said.
Marinaccio was in the game following a disastrous seventh-inning outing by Aroldis Chapman, whose postseason roster spot is very much in question after an inconsistent and injury-marred campaign. Chapman allowed four of the five batters he faced to reach base, including three walks — one to Gunnar Henderson with the bases loaded, forcing in the go-ahead run.
“We’ll continue to look for spots to get guys in and make evaluations,” Boone said.