Aaron Judge finally has the American League and New York Yankees single season home run record to himself. On Tuesday night, in the penultimate game of the regular season, Judge smashed his 62nd home run, breaking the previous record of 61 held by Yankees legend Roger Maris set in 1961. Maris had passed the iconic Yankee Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs hit in 1927.
Judge went deep to left field in the top of the first inning off of Texas Rangers starter Jesus Tinoco at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Following the historic moment, Judge said to MLB.com he has at last joined a group of revered Yankees.
“It’s an incredible honor to get a chance to be associated with one of the Yankee greats, one of the baseball greats,” Judge shared. ”To be enshrined with them forever, words can’t describe it. That’s one thing that’s so special about the Yankee organization, all the guys that came before us and paved the way, played the game the right way.”
The last part of Judge’s comments may not have been a conscious reference to Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the only MLB players who have more homers than Judge in a single season, but it did express the sentiments of many baseball purists. McGwire has admitted to using performance enhancing substances that were on baseball’s banned list of drugs and there has been compelling evidence suggesting Bonds and Sosa also used steroids.
Now it’s on to the postseason for the Yankees, who were 99-62 before their final regular season game last night and are hunting their first World Series title since 2009. They will have a first round bye after winning the American League East and will open their playoff schedule next Tuesday at Yankee Stadium in the American League Division Series facing the winner of the Cleveland Guardians-Tampa Bay Rays series.
Having five days rest is a huge benefit for the Yankees, who gain much needed rest and recovery and can set up their pitching rotation led by No. 1 and No. 2 starters Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes Jr.
The Mets could have been in a similar situation but now are on a playoff path that distinctly contrasts the Yankees. They held a one-game lead over the Atlanta Braves entering the three-game series with their longtime National League East nemesis on the road last weekend and were unceremoniously swept, falling behind the Braves two games exiting Atlanta. The Braves continued to handle their business, clinching the division for the fifth straight season with a 2-1 win over the Miami Marlins in Florida on Tuesday night.
Going into their regular season ending games yesterday, the Braves were 101-60 and the Mets 100-61. Now the Mets have the arduous task of defeating the formidable San Diego Padres in the opening three-game series that will be played at Citi Field tomorrow beginning tomorrow. If they do, then waiting is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who before completing their schedule last night had 110 wins, the most in baseball this season.