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Oct 3, 2022
I've covered the New York sports scene for over a decade Got it! Got it! All rights reserved. On Sept. 20, Aaron Judge ignited a captivating five-run ninth inning with a 430-shot into the left field bleachers. The blast gave Judge 60 homers and shortly after he hit it, the belief was how far beyond 60 would the slugger actually go, especially when Giancarlo Stanton could hardly hide his enthusiasm for the potential of Judge’s final total. “I think there's no limit and there's no jumping the gun. It's one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time,” Stanton said nearly two weeks ago. “When he gets the next one, he's going to go on to the next one, the next at-bat. As the distractions and everything else come to him, that's where he has to be more efficient and just be ready for what's coming." Nearly two weeks later, the answer at the moment is one more and the conclusion from constantly being around for the postgame answers of pitchers facing him, especially in the eight home games since his 60th homer, the conclusion is essentially something along the lines of this: “We appreciate the history, but we can’t focus on it.” In the home games that followed the same three stage pattern of movie theater silence, anticipation, and disappointment from the combined crowds of 368, 305 who watched the games for a combined 23 hours, 22 minutes. Since his 61st homer, Judge saw a combined 149 pitches from the following pitchers: Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, Eric Stout, Michael Wacha, John Schreiber, Matt Barnes, Rich Hill, Kaleb Ort, Nick Pivetta, Brayan Bello, Jordan Lyles, Felix Bautista, Austin Voth, Spenser Watkins, Kyle Bradish and Bryan Baker. MORE FOR YOU Against those 16 pitchers with varying degrees of experience, Judge went 5-for-22 with 11 walks and 12 strikeouts. There were walks of varying notable moments such as the time when Stout pitched around him without intentionally walking him during an eight-run eighth inning less than 24 hours after No. 60 occurred. Stout wound up drawing a postgame crowd of various New York writers, who wanted to know his approach towards facing Judge, especially after an encounter that prompted numerous vulgar chants from a crowd where many probably never heard of him until that point. Pittsburgh Pirates' Eric Stout pitches during the eighth inning of the team's baseball game against ... [+] the New York Yankees on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. “No, never,” Stout said of thinking about the answer to a trivia question. “No, I'm focused on the at-bat, trying to get him out regardless of the count. “I know I fell behind, threw him some good pitches that I thought just missed, maybe could have been there. I'd have to go back and look but regardless that was what I was thinking." A night later Wacha allowed a leadoff walk to Judge, who has never gotten a hit off him in 15 at-bats and was hardly pleased in doing so, though in that situation a walk is better than being the answer to a trivia question. While he said he was not trying to walk him, Wacha also spoke as someone who knows the success against a player like Judge might be one of those quirky, fluky statistical anomalies. “Probably luck,” Wacha said. “I know he's hit some balls hard off me and doesn't have much to show for that but just I don't know. Three innings after Wacha’s avoidance of being the trivia answer ended, it also was extremely good fortune for Matt Barnes, who prevented Judge from getting his 61st homer via a walk off homer but not without a few moments to exhale. A 404-foot drive to right field or left field easily clears the Yankee Stadium fences but to center field not so much. After the ball settled into Enrique Hernandez’s glove four feet from the netting overlooking Monument Park, Barnes became the answer to the question of which pitcher came closest to allowing the milestone homer. New York Yankees' Aaron Judge reacts after hitting a fly out during the ninth inning of a baseball ... [+] game against the Boston Red Sox Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. At the time, Barnes conceded it might have had a chance to clear the fence but also provided a passionate insight into his mentality and respect for Judge. “He's a great person and he's having an unbelievable season, I'm trying to get him out,” Barnes said. “I frankly don't care about history. We got a ballgame to win. If I give up a homer, the game's over, right? “So, I'm sure he does it at some point this season and I'll congratulate him and everything. If I go out there and get caught up in the history of what he could potentially be doing and I start tiptoeing around the at-bat, I'm probably going to hang something and I'm probably going to miss middle and my stuff's going to get worse and I'm probably going to give up a home run.” Two days later, Nick Pivetta shared a similar mindset when discussing a player who entered his chance at 61 with five hits in 11 at-bats against the right-hander. Like any other pitcher, Pivetta noticed the special baseballs to authenticate the moment when and if it happened and he hardly had an issue with the reasoning. Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nick Pivetta (37) throws during the first inning before a baseball ... [+] game against the New York Yankees, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh) Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. “That type of thing what he's trying to go after deserves different baseballs,” Pivetta said. “I think it's the right thing to happen. It's just the way the game is and there's no problem with it." Eventually Tim Mazya became the answer to the trivia question of who allowed Judge’s 61 homer last Wednesday in Toronto and now the focus turned towards not being the one to allow No. 62. Jordan Lyles was the first pitcher Judge had a chance at getting the 62nd homer against and he certainly noticed what everyone else saw – the three stages of potential drama and the changing of the baseballs. Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jordan Lyles reacts during the first inning of a baseball game against the ... [+] New York Yankees on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. “Everyone's standing up,” Lyles said. “Everyone's getting ready for something possible, something great, but overall, I just wish him the best of luck. I've heard nothing but great things about him and hopefully he has a healthy another week so and I wish the best for him." "It's pretty cool,” Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman added. After every swing he took you could hear audible gasps from the whole entire crowd. Every time he swung and just a big buildup so that was pretty cool.” When Lyles was lifted in the eighth inning Friday, it seemed dynamic closer Felix Bautista would get a six-out save but before throwing a pitch to Judge he tweaked a knee. Following a mound conference, Judge was intentionally walked On Saturday, the Orioles seemed more cautious with the 25 pitches thrown to Judge as 17 were out of the strike zone and they understood the mentality of the crowd. “I get it,” manager Brandon Hyde. “They want to see something special. It's a cool moment.” "What an incredible feat he's accomplishing,” Baltimore reliever Spenser Watkins said. “It's impressive to watch. I don't think that it ever crossed my mind that I don't want to be the guy. As a competitor it's one pitch at a time, one inning at a time kind of a concept. So, you know he's been an incredible player all year, hats off to him. There's no difference." During the final home game before the playoffs, there seemed to be more of an aggressive approach towards Judge as the Orioles managed to strike him out three times on their way to clinching a winning record. Baltimore’s performance in Judge’s final regular season home game marked the ninth time any opposing pitching staff got three strikeouts against him this year. “He's a great player,” Hyde said. “He's having an incredible season; a record breaking season and I’m pulling for him in Texas." The 62nd homer may or may not occur sometime between now and Wednesday but those who avoided allowing the milestone homers constantly felt the same thing that it is a great moment for the game but one we would like to avoid being on the other side if we can help it. And if an opposing pitcher cannot avoid being the trivia answer, they will merely accept it and likely offer similar remarks as Mayza, who described allowing Judge’s 61st homer by saying: “Just one too many good pitches over the plate to a really good hitter," Follow me on Twitter .
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