They had waited five days—41½ innings, 21 plate appearances, 81 pitches—and then the rain came, and baseball fans waited some more. Aaron Judge, who hit his 60th home run of the season Tuesday and has not hit one since, has been the center of a metaphorical storm all week. He was on deck when the literal storm descended.
Major League Baseball finally called the game—a 2–0 Yankees victory over the Red Sox—after a 96-minute delay, marking surely the first time a home crowd booed the announcement that its team had won. The home team might have booed a little, too.
Are you desperate to see Judge break the American League home run record? So are the Yankees.
“We’re all in the dugout, hoping he hits it,” said lefty Nestor Cortes Jr., who pitched all six innings for New York on Sunday. “Every fly ball, we’re screaming with the fans.”
Rain pelted the field. The warning track flooded. Lightning nearly struck the scoreboard in center field. Catcher Jose Trevino stuck his head out and saw the conditions … and still he hoped the umpires would resume play, just so Judge, who is one long ball shy of Roger Maris’s AL-record 61, could get one more at bat.
“Obviously,” Trevino said, laughing.
Alas, he had to settle for watching Judge rope a leadoff double down the left field line, walk on six pitches and fly out to center. That disappointing performance gave him a .476 on-base percentage and a .467 slugging percentage since his last bomb.
The Yankees flew to Toronto after Sunday’s game. Judge and manager Aaron Boone insisted they did not mind that Judge had not tied or broken the record at home.
“The script will play out,” Boone said. “It’s, you know, the drama of sport. Things happen if and when they’re supposed to.”
Don’t tell that to Yankees fans, who shook the stadium every time Judge strode to the plate. The rest of the game served simply to provide suspense for those four or five moments per night. When the other 17 hitters were at bat, people chatted with their neighbors, ate their hot dogs, cheered half-heartedly. But whenever Judge appeared, that all stopped. The crowd rose as he left the on-deck circle, roared as he dug into the batter’s box … and fell eerily silent as the pitcher delivered. They jeered balls and seemed ready to commit violence at called strikes. They lost their minds on routine flyouts. They groaned at walks and doubles.
Twice this week New York fans have been in the unusual position of rooting against their team: The Yankees took a lead into the top of the ninth inning, and unless Boston tied the game, Judge would not bat again. At one point Saturday, a group of Yankees fans started a “Let’s go, Red Sox” chant.
On Saturday, Trevino, hitting ahead of Judge, wondered why the air seemed to crackle when he reached a 2–2 count. “Then I looked to my right,” he said, laughing. “And I was like, ‘Oh. Yeah.’”
Boone called the response “awe-inspiring.”
Even Judge, who professed not to hear the fans while he was hitting, admitted he heard them as soon as he was done. On Wednesday, the crowd reaction was so muted when he doubled to left field that he thought the ball might have gone foul. “Fans packed it out to see us win a ball game and see some homers,” he said, laughing. “I gotta cut out this double stuff, I guess.”
Even Boone occasionally finds himself taking his star for granted. “There may be a night where he went 1-for-3 with a walk, and I came in thinking he didn’t have a great night,” he said. “Then I’m like, ‘1-for-3 with a double, a walk and a stolen base and a play in the outfield—it’s like, that’s a pretty good night.’”
Judge’s teammates do the same calculation. When he doesn’t go deep, they try not to look discouraged.
“Our expectations for him are the same as they were from Day 1, that he sets the tone and has a quality at bat,” said ace Gerrit Cole. “So, like, if he does it, then—we’re not disappointed that he walks. That’s a positive outcome for the team. So we try to remain the same.”
Not everyone is always so rational. When Boone told first baseman Anthony Rizzo—who missed most of September with a back injury and headaches caused by the epidural to treat it—that he would get Friday off, Rizzo protested. “I gotta be in there when he does it!” he insisted. Boone reminded Rizzo that the team needed him healthy for the playoffs. Rizzo reluctantly agreed to sit.
Judge did not hit a home run that night. Rizzo had to wait. So does everyone else.
More MLB coverage:
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• Everything in Aaron Judge’s Career Led Him to This Historic Season
• Julio Rodriguez Is Here to Save the Mariners
• The Yankees Are Built for a Deep Playoff Run
• How the New Mets are (Mostly) Overcoming Decades of Dysfunction