TORONTO — When Aaron Judge hit his 60th homer of the season on Sept. 20 to tie Babe Ruth’s magic number, it seemed Judge would match Roger Maris’ No. 61 at any minute.
Instead, it took eight more games, and two countries, along with Judge enduring his second-longest home run drought of the year- before the slugger finally tied the American League and franchise record on Wednesday night.
Judge’s historic smash in Toronto came against the Blue Jays’ Tim Mayza on a 3-2 pitch in the top of the seventh inning.
The two-run shot put the Yankees in front, 5-3.
Next up will be topping Maris’ record, which many consider to be the legitimate single-season home run record due to Barry Bonds’ PED ties.
The last player to hit as many home runs as Judge had before Wednesday night was his current teammate, Giancarlo Stanton, who had 59 during his National League MVP season of 2017 with the Marlins.
And while Stanton came up just shy of 60, nothing has slowed down Judge in 2022.
It was a season that began with Judge turning down the Yankees’ seven-year, $213.5 million extension on Opening Day, as the outfielder bet on himself and decided to head toward free agency.
His first homer of the season came off Toronto’s Jose Berrios on April 13 and Judge didn’t hit another until he went deep twice on April 22 against the Guardians.
Everything to know about Aaron Judge and his chase for the home run record:
But he picked up the pace at the end of April, when he hit four in five games and then homered 10 times in 11 games from July 21 to Aug. 1
During that stretch, Judge also smacked the 200th homer of his career on July 30 off Jonathan Heasley of the Royals.
He got to 50 on Aug. 29 and set a career-high with his 53rd on Sept. 4.
Throughout this historic season, Judge has steadfastly said he’s not interested in the number of homers he hits, keeping his focus on how many wins the Yankees have.
Now that he’s at the doorstep of history, that focus will be tested even more, as he looks to snap Maris’ record 61 years after it was set.
Judge has managed to get here with very little protection in the Yankees lineup in the second half, as the team has been decimated by injuries. Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Carpenter and Andrew Benintendi all missing time on the IL, while Judge has barely missed a beat.
And while Aaron Boone looked to give Judge off days at various points earlier in the season, when the Yankees got off to their historically good start, the manager hasn’t been able to do that lately thanks to the shrinking lead in the AL East, as well as the absence of other established hitters.
Through it all, Judge has produced at a high level and he’s got one home run to go before he makes more history.