Aaron Judge has hit 54 home runs this season, sitting just seven away from tying Roger Maris’ American League record.
Heavy rain in the New York area postponed Tuesday’s game, so Judge will now have more at-bats than usual on Wednesday to continue creeping toward the record when the New York Yankees host the Minnesota Twins in a single-admission doubleheader.
Judge has homered in three straight games after connecting for a tiebreaking two-run blast in the sixth inning of Monday’s 5-2 win. He has 27 games to match the AL single-season home run record set by Maris with the 1961 Yankees.
“Just trying to do what I can every single day,” Judge said. “I show up to work, prepared, ready to go and do whatever it takes to help our team do what it takes to get a win today. Whether it’s moving a guy over, driving a guy in, making a play on defense, that’s what I’m focused on.”
Judge has 21 homers since the All-Star break while the Yankees (81-54) have struggled to a 17-26 record, and each homer makes his manager and teammates awestruck.
“It’s getting hard to put into words what he’s doing,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Just a special season he’s in the midst of.”
“It’s hard for me to just hit one (homer),” Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa said of Judge. “For him to do what he’s been doing but still have base hits and contribute in other ways with walks, especially when guys don’t want to pitch to him, I think that’s what makes it so impressive.”
Minnesota (68-65) did little offensively Monday, besides former Yankee Gary Sanchez’s two-run homer, and has scored 15 runs in losing four of five. The Twins had followed up a six-game skid by scoring 34 runs in a five-game winning streak before their current slide.
“It’s been harder to hit this year and it’s been harder to score runs this year,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “And some of the numbers that we used to look at and go, ‘Yeah, those are decent numbers,’ are actually really good numbers now in a lot of ways. But the downturn hasn’t seemed to affect a few guys and Judge is one of those guys.”
New York’s pitching staff has recorded a 2.86 ERA over its last 14 games, and Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.28 ERA) is set to start the nightcap on Wednesday after Domingo German (2-3, 3.12) goes in the opener.
Cole is 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break and took the loss last Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels when he allowed a three-run homer to Shohei Ohtani in the sixth inning following consecutive errors.
Cole is 3-0 with a 3.80 ERA in four career starts against the Twins. He took a no-decision June 9 in Minnesota when he allowed seven runs and eight hits, including a career-high five homers in 2 1/3 innings.
German has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his nine starts this season, including Friday’s, when he pitched 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
German is 1-0 with a 5.87 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) against Minnesota.
Joe Ryan (10-7, 3.88) will start the nightcap for his first career start against the Yankees after allowing five runs on eight hits, including a grand slam to Xander Bogaerts, against Boston on Wednesday.
Louie Varland will make his major league debut in the opener after going 8-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul.
–Field Level Media