There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of baseball during a home run chase, and Aaron Judge’s adventures on Thursday showed that and more.
Entering the game against the Boston Red Sox with 60 homers on the year and needing one more to match Roger Maris for the longstanding American League record, Judge didn’t get many opportunities to make history. Despite Red Sox manager Alex Cora saying his pitchers would “attack” Judge as usual, the MVP candidate was walked in three of his first four plate appearances.
Judge’s best chance came in the ninth inning against Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, with the score tied 4-4. The stage was perfectly set for not just a record-tying homer, but a walkoff winner as well.
Five pitches in, on a 2-2 count, Judge crushed an elevated fastball and immediately set off a roar across Yankee Stadium. The Fox broadcast certainly thought he had hit the home run, with play-by-play man Kenny Albert exclaiming “Aaron Judge! Center field! Way back!” while the camera showed an angle clearly meant for a home run.
Unfortunately for everyone on their feet, Albert finished his call with “Buuut Hernandez is there.” The ball fell just a few feet short of the center-field wall, into the glove of Kiké Hernández.
The MLB Statcast numbers show the fans had reason to be excited. Judge hit the ball with an exit velocity of 113.0 mph and watched it travel 404 feet. It was the hardest-hit and longest-hit ball of the night, in a game that saw two actual homers.
Unfortunately, Judge just happened to hit the ball to the deepest part of the ballpark, and so history will have to wait at least one more day, with Friday spent exclusively within the confines of Apple TV+.
The good news for the Yankees is that they still emerged from the game with a victory over their rivals, as they held the Red Sox scoreless in the top of the 10th inning then won on a walkoff single from Josh Donaldson.
Judge’s next chance to tie Maris will come on Friday at 7 pm ET. He will have a platoon advantage against the Red Sox starter, southpaw Rich Hill.