In the seventh inning of a tied ballgame, 2500 miles from Linden, California, in another country to boot, Aaron Judge tied history, hitting his 61st home run of the season. Words have become superfluous when describing Aaron Judge’s season. He is, simply, closing up one of the very greatest years a baseball player has ever had.
He has been worth 11 wins, on a team with a 9.5 game lead in the division. Despite being pitched around for a week, he hasn’t expanded, chased, or pressed at the plate. He walked 14 times between No. 60 and 61, including five straight times in the last two games. He never shook from his approach at the plate, and when Tim Mayza left a sinker out over the plate, well, you’ve seen it by now:
Of course, the home run came late in a tie game, giving his team a lead they would not relinquish, an 8-3 Yankees victory. I’ve written all year about Judge’s chase of Roger Maris, thinking back in June that he would get there. He has one more home run to go this season, but I never thought he would be the most dominant offensive force the sport has seen in 20 years.
Gerrit Cole continues to lead the world in OneBadInning+. It was funny, given what Matt Blake said about his sometimes wandering focus:
Cole was excellent, nay, perfect, through five innings. He tied Ron Guidry’s single season strikeout record at 248 — the other little bit of baseball history tonight — gave up a single hard hit ball, and looked as good as I’ve ever seen him, upping his curveball usage to 30 percent in the first five frames and dominating with it.
And then in the sixth, he hung a slider to Danny Jansen that Jano took out to left. Ok, 3-1, solo shots don’t kill you ... but this mistake proved hard for Cole to let go. He gave up another hit immediately on another slider to Whit Merrifield, and walked Jackie Bradley, Jr., he of the .254 OBP entering play.
Bo Bichette singled to bring in Whit, and if there was any doubt that Cole’s mind was not on the batter in front of him — one Vlad Guerrero Jr. — he balked, and what a balk it was.
Balk por parte de GERRIT COLE. pic.twitter.com/sstYFTBdfu— Joframaso⚾️ (@joframaso) September 29, 2022
Sometimes guys will twitch or get a spike caught, those things happen. We try not to speculate on a guy’s mental faculties in-game, but Cole was rattled. I don’t know how you fix this — he can’t completely forget how to pitch if José Ramírez hits a hanging slider in an ALDS game.
His final line was passable, I suppose, but given he was literally perfect through five, and his meltdown was so obviously mental, I’m flabbergasted by where this team goes with Gerrit Cole. He’s not unrosterable, but boy, I may have to watch his playoff work through my fingers.
Judge wasn’t the only offense for the Yankees, but the only home run. Josh Donaldson and Oswald Peraza both had RBI singles in the first inning, Peraza’s giving him his first career run batted in. Harrison Bader also had an RBI single, and caused some chaos in the eighth to give the club some insurance:
Words have become superfluous in describing Judge’s season, and they’re largely so in describing this game. It is the 61 Game, and we’ll get a chance at a potential 62 Game Friday night when the Baltimore Orioles come into the Bronx.