Aaron Judge’s latest feat of strength: Taking the MLB HR lead – Yankees Blog

BALTIMORE — The most interesting man in baseball, Aaron Judge, earlier had hit yet another classic home run, when he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning with a chance to bring the Yankees even with the Orioles.

In the seventh, Judge’s long ball was an impressive display of power. If hit by nearly anyone else in baseball, the line drive would not have gone over the wall. But Judge is 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds, and the ball leaves his bat with the type of exit velocity usually reserved for students scurrying out of school on the final day of classes.

“It was a line drive,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the 429-foot shot. “That is how far his line drives go. They are different than a lot of other line drives.”

The shot, Judge’s 17th of his rookie season, brought the Yankees within one run and moved Judge ahead of Mike Trout for the major league home run lead. Judge hit it off Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, whom he almost got in the second inning as well.

“He just missed that,” Girardi said of the ball that was hit a little off the barrel of Judge’s bat. “That is probably a two-run homer.”

So there was the 25-year-old Judge in the ninth inning. Most of the 40,242 fans were still in the stands at this Memorial Day game. For the Yankees fans in attendance and their manager, it was all they could ask for to have Judge up with a chance to tie it after Starlin Castro’s third-inning error led to a couple of runs.

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Judge stood tall at the plate against the Orioles’ Brad Brach, who is trying to fill in for closer Zach Britton. With Judge due second, the Yankees knew the game might not be over.

Girardi was thinking “we have a shot,” he said.

Brach came into the at-bat confident, even though he had struggled recently. He was well aware of what Judge had done this year. Judge is the talk of baseball, but Brach has had some success against him.

When Judge struck out in half of his 84 at-bats last year, two of those K’s were to Brach. This year, Brach had struck Judge out once and walked him once. Brach said he used all three of his pitches (fastball, cutter and slider) for the three strikeouts. This left Judge having to think about multiple pitches.

On this warm day in Baltimore, Brach had his best fastball working, dialing it up to nearly 99 mph. Brach was ready to get beat with his fastball.

“If he was going to put a good swing on it, he was going to have to catch up to it and hit it the other way,” Brach said. “That was kind of my approach. He is one of the better hitters right now. He’s hot. I knew that, but I just knew that my fastball was good today.”

True to form, Judge said he wasn’t thinking about a home run or himself. He was focused on just starting a rally with one out.

“I’m just trying to get on base with the team we’ve got,” Judge said.

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The first pitch Brach unleashed cut through the humidity at 97 mph and was on the outside black of the plate. Judge was looking for a meaty pitch, so he had to let it sail by and immediately was down in the count. The next pitch was 96 and again on the black. After a ball, Brach finished off Judge swinging at a fastball that nearly touched 98.

“He made three quality pitches on the corner,” Judge said. “Sometimes you have to tip your cap.”

After Didi Gregorius struck out as well, the first-place Yankees were 3-2 losers to the Orioles. The most interesting man in baseball, Judge, added to his amazing start, but he couldn’t finish off Baltimore all by himself.

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