Aaron Judge’s low-key approach to chase of Roger Maris’ record

OAKLAND, Calif. — Aaron Judge enters Sunday’s game with the A’s just one home run shy of cracking the 50-homer milestone for the second time in his career.

After hitting No. 49 in Friday night’s win over the A’s — a three-run shot that provided all of the Yankees’ offense in a one-run game — Judge said he never envisioned himself hitting 50 homers, let alone in a position to make a run at Roger Maris’ franchise and American League-record of 61.

“I didn’t think about it a lot,’’ Judge said Friday night of the 50-homer mark. “I just wanted to be a great player [and] a great teammate. I never really looked at numbers. I just looked at them [when I was playing] ‘MLB The Show.’ ”

He likely will begin paying attention soon, even if he doesn’t want to, since he’s still on pace to break Maris’ record, which will lead to even more attention over the final month-plus of the regular season.

Aaron Judge hits his 49th homer of the season during the Yankees' win over the A's on Friday night.
Aaron Judge hits his 49th homer of the season during the Yankees’ win over the A’s on Friday night.

And it’s the pace Judge is on that has amazed Aaron Boone the most.

“He’s at 49 [homers] and 109 [RBIs] in August,’’ Boone said before the Yankees’ 3-2 loss to the A’s on Saturday night. “It’s remarkable.”

The manager also noted that unlike in some other record-setting seasons, there’s no one close to Judge, who went 0-for-3 with a walk in the Yankees’ loss on Saturday.

Maris had Mickey Mantle and Mark McGwire had Sammy Sosa.

Even in Barry Bonds’ 2001 now tarnished season, during which he hit 73 home runs, Sosa had 64.

This year, Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber is the closest to Judge and he went into Saturday with 35.

Judge is especially enjoying this part of the Yankees’ 10-game road trip, since he grew up about an hour from the Oakland Coliseum.

He spent part of Friday’s pregame with his All Rise charity foundation and signed autographs on the field well after the Yankees finished their fifth straight win.

“Whenever the Yankees come to town, you want to put on a show for everybody,’’ Judge said.

Judge grew up rooting for the Giants and Bonds.

Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge

“He made the game look easy all those years,’’ Judge said. “Especially [at home]. Hitting in the Bay Area, Triples Alley at Pac Bell [Park] back then.”

Judge’s home run pace had slowed a bit earlier in the month, when he went a season-high nine games without a homer.

Asked about ending the “drought” on Aug. 17, Judge responded, “Home run drought? I didn’t know that. That’s news to me.”

And he’s put an end to further questions about it by hitting three homers in his past four games going into Saturday, along with seven RBIs, four walks and just two strikeouts.
Not surprisingly, the Yankees have won all four games during that stretch.

Those four walks in four games are another parallel between Judge and Bonds, since Boone has said repeatedly in recent weeks that Judge is getting the “Bonds treatment,’’ as teams and pitchers grow increasingly wary of pitching to him.

That caution has grown as the Yankees deal with injuries and slumps in their lineup, which has reduced the protection around Judge.

They played without Giancarlo Stanton for a month when he was out with left Achilles tendinitis, and Matt Carpenter is out indefinitely with a fractured left foot. Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres and Josh Donaldson are among the bats that have cooled off around Judge, but he’s continued to hit.

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