The New York Yankees topped the rival Boston Red Sox by a score of 5-4 in 10 innings on Thursday night in the Bronx, and in doing so they secured a berth in the postseason. An inning prior, however, everyone in the ballpark and watching at home thought the Yankees won the game via a historic walk-off homer. That’s because slugger Aaron Judge came within a few feet of hitting his 61st home run of the season – a home run that would’ve tied Roger Maris’ American League and franchise record for homers in a season.
This wasn’t one of those instances of wish-casting in which he humpbacks it to the shallow part of the grass and those who don’t know to watch the outfielder instead of the ball gasp and roar in anticipation. No, this looked, felt, and sounded like a vintage Judge boom-job off the bat, and as a result we were all fooled for a few tense seconds. Also fooled? The poor, amped-up, under-pressure Fox camera operator. Have a look:
Incoming was a 2-2, 95.8 mph fastball from reliever Matt Barnes, and outgoing was a 113 mph act of demolition that traveled 404 feet into a layer of cool, thick night air that didn’t do Judge any favors. Also not helping the cause of No. 61 was that he hit it to – all together now – the deepest part of the ballpark. Only at the last instant did we, and the camera operator, realize that the ball would somehow lose its energy at the last instant and settle into Enrique Hernández’s glove just in front of the wall. When Judge lays into one in such a way, there’s a foreordained sense to it, especially when it has the weight of 61 upon it. Rarely does anyone say something like he didn’t quite get enough of it when the batsman of note is 6-foot-7, 282-pound Aaron Judge, but we did wind up saying that on Thursday night. Instead of authoring one of the most memorable and important home runs in the annals of memorable and important home runs, Judge wound up with one of the most baffling F8s in the annals of baffling F8s.
The good news for Judge and those who want to see him keep his appointment with history is that he figures to have ample chances to hit 62 and then some. All of us – fans, scribes and camera folks alike – will be sure to be there with our perilous assumptions in tow.