If a moment of history wasn’t on the line, Yankees fans would have been quite pleased with their team’s 8-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
The starting pitcher, Nestor Cortes, who did not give up a hit through four and two-thirds innings pitched, struck out a dozen batters, walked two and gave up one hit in seven and one-third innings of work. The Yankees also got home runs from Giancarlo Stanton and Kyle Higashioka, but fans were left waiting for the home run they really wanted to see: Aaron Judge’s 62nd of the season, which would break a tie with Roger Maris for the most by an American League player in a single season.
Maris’s 61st home run had come on Oct. 1, 1961, which led to many fans — including Roger Maris Jr. — hoping the date could be a good-luck charm for Judge.
In five plate appearances, Judge was hit by a pitch, walked twice and struck out twice, much to the disappointment of the faithful who stuck it out on a chilly October afternoon despite a short rain delay before the game and gusty winds that did not abate, making it feel even colder.
Many of those fans booed Baltimore’s starting pitcher, Austin Voth, and, later, reliever Spenser Watkins, who did not offer Judge many pitches in the strike zone.
After Saturday’s game, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said he understood that it has been a “hard situation” for those pitching to Judge who “want to attack him” and also get him out.
“I get the conflict there, and that’s probably a little bit weird for every pitcher,” Boone said. “I totally respect that it’s a tough situation to be in as an opponent.”
Pitching around Judge, however, has given the Yankees opportunities to seize on their opponents whenever they walk him. That was the case in the bottom of the seventh, when Judge was walked by Watkins and the Yankees proceeded to pile on with three singles and a double, extending their lead by four runs.
“We know we got to capitalize on that, otherwise they’re going to keep doing it,” Stanton said of teams pitching around Judge. “I think they will either way, but it’s good extra punch when we do capitalize.”
After the game, Cortes, who recorded his 12th win in his final start of the regular season, said he has admired Judge throughout his chase for keeping a consistent attitude.
“He’s the same guy every single day,” Cortes said. “That’s what’s special about him. He’s helped us navigate through the ups and downs.”
Boone praised Cortes after the game for the impressive start, adding that he has been “instrumental” for the Yankees this season. Cortes notched his 12th strikeout of the day in the top of the eighth inning before being taken of out the game. As he walked toward the dugout, many fans rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation.
Boone said after the game that the possibility of such an ovation may have played a role in letting Cortes pitch to one batter in the eighth.
Boone said it would also be “an added something” to see Judge hit his 62nd home run in Yankee Stadium.
“But that said, if he does it, period, 62 homers is going to be 62 homers,” Boone said. “That’ll be something you see forever and ever.”
Judge does not have much time left. The Yankees have one more home game, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, but a chance of rain in the Bronx could put that game in jeopardy. The Yankees also have four games scheduled against the Texas Rangers to close out the regular season.