He isn’t going to win the American League MVP award. He’s not going to finish second, and you can’t rule him out of the top five altogether.
Aaron Judge, on the other hand, appears to be moving closer to two mighty consolation prizes with each game he plays.
One, a championship for the Yankees, is still a long way off, despite Judge’s 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Thursday night, which was a significant step forward. After this virtuoso display of value, how can the Yankees not seriously consider a long-term deal with him?
The behemoth hit a pair of solo tape-measure homers against the Jays’ likely American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, and he also made a run-saving diving catch in right field.
“He’s a superstar,” Anthony Rizzo, who delivered a vital home run himself, said of Judge.
“He’s playing like the great player that he is right now when we need him the most,” Aaron Boone said.
The Yankees (91-68) are in a good spot as they return home to finish the regular season with three games against the Rays, who have already clinched the AL’s top seed for the playoffs: one more win assures them of a tie-breaking game on Monday. Two more wins will give them home-field advantage in the AL wild-card game on October 5th.
It would have been a much more difficult road for the Yankees if they hadn’t hung in there behind Judge, who, as you may recall, is playing with a dislocated left pinky he sustained Sunday night at Fenway Park, one of the Yankees’ five victories on a six-game trip to Boston and Toronto.
“Good, I guess,” Judge said, in assessing the week in which the Yankees revived their season once again. “I wish it was 6-0.”
Even though Judge has given the Yankees nearly everything, you can’t have it all. His excellent statistics (39 home runs and a.923 OPS) have been compiled not in bursts and halts like his memorable rookie season of 2017, but rather consistently throughout this rigorous campaign, with the only zero on his ledger being the number of trips to the injured list.
Judge got his team on the board first with a two-out, mammoth blast to center — measured at 455 feet, his longest of the season — on the first pitch he saw from Ray, a fastball, on this night, with the Yankees facing a significant disadvantage in the starting pitching matchup.
“[I was] going up there with an aggressive mindset,” Judge said. “Anything over the plate, I was going to try to do some damage.”
While Corey Kluber pitched admirably against the Jays’ dangerous lineup, mixing and moving his pitches, this version of Kluber needs a little help from his friends to get by. With one run already on the board and Corey Dickerson on second, Judge dove to catch Santiago Espinal’s flare to short right field, a shot with an expected batting average of.610 due to its remote location.