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How the Yankees Made Sure Aaron Judge's 60th Home Run Came in a Win

Aaron Judge cut New York's deficit to three runs with a historic homer in the bottom of the ninth. Then these four players executed a dramatic and game-winning rally.
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NEW YORK — Aaron Judge begrudgingly climbed the dugout steps. His eyes briefly scanned the crowd on field level at Yankee Stadium as he lifted his helmet for a split second, keeping a straight face. 

The Yankees slugger had just hit his 60th home run of the year, tying Babe Ruth for the second-most home runs in a single season in both Yankees franchise history and American League history.

In that moment, however, Judge was more focused on the number glaring back at him on the scoreboard than the second curtain call of his Yankees career. New York was losing 8-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning after his solo shot, three outs away from a frustrating loss to the lowly Pirates.

Cameras stayed on Judge as he walked through the dugout. At one point, it looked like the right fielder said "check the score," almost imploring the home crowd to stop giving him such a thunderous ovation with those in pinstripes trailing by three runs.

Judge has made it clear throughout his pursuit of home run history this summer that he's far more concerned with the performance of his team over his personal accolades. He's been the quintessential team player all year long. When he smacked his 50th homer of the season last month in Anaheim, he said the milestone was just another number and that he wished New York came away with the win.

Had the Yankees come up short in their comeback during that ninth inning on Tuesday, there's no doubt the slugger would've given a similar answer in his postgame presser about home run No. 60. In fact, it could've been the exact same response, a regurgitation that the loss outweighs his own success, regardless of the history he made.

Judge's teammates made sure that wasn't the case.

The next four plate appearances featured quality at-bats with a mix of plate discipline, a little bit of luck and one big swing. It was a clinically-executed rally to capitalize on a reliever on the ropes, passing the baton before a decisive blow that sparked bedlam in the Bronx. 

Here's how it went down as Judge looked on from the dugout, slowly coming to the realization that his 60th homer of the year was going to come in a win after all. 

Anthony Rizzo — Double

Rizzo's at-bat began with a long pause as he stood outside the batter's box, giving the fans at Yankee Stadium a chance to properly serenade their superstar.

When he did dig in, still looking for his first base knock of the night, Rizzo understood the situation. With his team trailing by three runs and nobody out, he waited for his pitch, not trying to do too much.

After two tremendous takes to put Pirates closer Wil Crowe in a hole—the right-hander was already under duress after Judge's demoralizing 430-foot blast to start the frame—Rizzo worked the count to 2-2.

Crowe went to his changeup on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, a perfectly-placed offering that tailed off the outside corner. Rizzo could've pulled off and grounded harmlessly to the right side as he often does, but he waited on it, going with the pitch and stroking a line drive into the left-center field gap for a double.

One baserunner doesn't do too much for the Yankees there, but it puts even more pressure on Crowe, keeping the line moving with nobody out.

Gleyber Torres — Walk

Torres got one pitch to hit in his five-pitch walk. 

Crowe started with two sliders, both easy takes out of the zone. He followed with a four-seam fastball right down the heart of the plate. The second baseman put a great swing on it, but fouled it back.

Either Crowe learned his lesson or simply lost control of the zone, missing with two more sliders to put runners on first and second. 

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Torres has a track record of clutch hits including a walk-off home run back in May. He entered that plate appearance already with two singles in the game. He could've expanded his zone and tried to drive Rizzo in with one of those sliders, but never chased. 

That brought the tying run to the plate. 

Josh Donaldson — Single

Sandwiched between two blasts was Donaldson's bloop.

One pitch after swinging through a sinker on the inner third, Donaldson got jammed on a similar pitch, this one even closer to his hands. Rizzo and Torres held up before scampering forward as Pittsburgh's outfielders converged, watching as it fell to the grass in shallow right-center.

The expected batting average on Donaldson's single was .290. The exit velocity was 75.1 mph. 

Who knows what would've happened if Donaldson pulled that pitch or if he was even later on it. He could've bounced into a double play and sucked the life out of the rally. Really, any sort of out at this point would've been a much-needed boost for Crowe, who was laboring.

Loading the bases with no outs set the stage for Giancarlo Stanton's redemptive moment.

Giancarlo Stanton — Walk-Off Grand Slam

Stanton stepped up to the box with nine hits in his previous 82 at-bats, dating back to July 21. He had struck out three times in a row leading up to that at-bat as well, hearing boos get louder and louder with each lonely waltz back to the dugout.

Still searching for his timing, Stanton watched a first-pitch strike. He took two balls in a row just outside of the zone before unloading on a 2-1 sinker off the inside corner, fouling it off the mask of the home plate umpire. He was on it.

With two strikes, Crowe shook off his catcher Jason Delay once, trying to catch Stanton out in front with a changeup. Delay set up below the zone and Crowe left it sitting above the knees over the plate.

Stanton didn't just hit it over the fence, he absolutely obliterated the 89-mph changeup, sending a 118-mph laser to the seats in left for a walk-off grand slam. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said it looked more like a 130-mph missile, a slump-busting blast that capped off a "really magical inning."

Tuesday night's heroics marked the Yankees' 36th come-from-behind win of the year and their 15th walk-off win. It's the fifth time they overcame a four-run deficit in 2022. 

In other words, it was reminiscent of several comeback wins that this team produced earlier in the season, specifically during their historic first half as they built a sizable cushion in the division.

This five-run ninth inning was extremely significant. It ensured that New York held on to their 5.5-game lead in the AL East and most importantly, it gave Judge and everyone involved the chance to truly celebrate and appreciate the home run that started it all off.

"I just look back at those last four at-bats leading up to Giancarlo," Judge said. "Rizzo right behind me. Great swing, double to get in scoring position and then Gleyber right behind him, great at-bat, walk. Donaldson, fighting off a tough pitch just to get big G up there with a chance to win it. That's what this team is made of. Kind of slow to start, especially against a good rookie pitcher, but guys worked hard to the very end. I'll remember those four at-bats and Giancarlo's grand slam walk-off."

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