At this point, it's a matter of when, not if.
With 57 home runs on the season, after his two-homer night on Tuesday at Fenway Park, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is just four swings away from tying the single-season record in the American League.
Five more home runs and Judge will pass Yankees legend Roger Maris, who slugged 61 long balls back in 1961, a record that has stood strong for six decades.
New York has 19 games remaining in the regular season. Considering Judge has been in the starting lineup in each of the Yankees' last 37 contests, the slugger is due for an off day or two. Especially if New York is able to lengthen their lead in the division as they approach the postseason (Yankees lead the second-place Blue Jays by six games as of Thursday afternoon).
Whether he plays every game or not, that gives Judge almost three weeks worth of ballgames to make history.
So, when exactly will Judge tie Maris' record and when will he break it? Will those historic home runs come at Yankee Stadium in front of New York's home crowd?
Overall, Judge is on pace to easily exceed Maris' mark. Entering play on Friday (with an off day on Thursday), Judge has 57 homers in his team's first 143 games. That's a pace for 65 home runs on the year. For reference, Maris didn't hit his 57th home run until the 150th game of the season in '61.
Let's break this down series by series, beginning with New York's trip to Milwaukee over the weekend...
Yankees @ Brewers (Sept. 16-18)
The Brewers have allowed 170 home runs this year entering play on Thursday, more than 23 other teams. American Family Field is a home run hub as well—there have been 1.148 home runs hit per game at Milwaukee's home ballpark, seventh-most out of baseball's 30 stadiums.
That in mind—also factoring in Judge's red-hot streak that he's on right now—I've got Judge going deep twice against the Brewers, specifically in the first and final games of the series.
Right-hander Adrian Houser gets the ball for Milwaukee in Game 1. He's only allowed eight home runs this season and has done a good job avoiding barrels (5.4 percent barrel rate this year), but his low strikeout rate and nonexistent whiff rate are red flags with Judge coming to town.
Two-time All-Star Brandon Woodruff pitches on Saturday. He's absolutely susceptible to giving up a big fly—he's allowed eight in his last seven starts—but he's going to be a tougher nut to crack.
Finally, right-hander Jason Alexander starts in the finale on Sunday afternoon. Remember those poor metrics I mentioned with Houser? Alexander takes those to another level. He's among the worst in the league in limiting hard contact, striking hitters out and making them swing and miss. Sounds like a big day for Judge to me.
Yankees vs. Pirates (Sept. 20-21)
With 59 home runs, entering a two-game series against the lowly Pirates at Yankee Stadium, Judge will be on history watch. If this isn't the case already, everyone will be tuning in for his at-bats, keeping a close eye on his every move in the batter's box.
We don't know who is starting for Pittsburgh just yet, but quite frankly, it doesn't matter. Locked in and returning to the Bronx, Judge will homer once during this brief series, reaching 60.
That sets the stage for a four-game series against the Red Sox, a team that Judge has had his way with all year...
Yankees vs. Red Sox (Sept. 22-25)
At some point Judge has to cool down, right? If all goes according to this prediction, Judge will have hit 11 home runs in his previous 20 games.
Judge will hit one home run in this four-game series. I just don't think Boston will pitch to him as much and that torrid pace Judge was on is going to be extremely difficult to sustain.
Still, Judge ties Maris' record at home, hitting his 61st over the short porch in right—just like Maris did 61 years ago. Let's say that home run comes on Saturday afternoon against one of Boston's relievers.
Even with one more game at home, his historic chase will travel north of the border, placing even more emphasis on a huge series against Toronto with postseason implications.
Yankees @ Blue Jays (Sept. 26-28)
Ben Clemens of FanGraphs recently crunched some numbers, calculating when Judge is most likely to his historic home runs (60, 61 and 62). According to his data, there's a good chance Judge makes some history at the Rogers Centre.
My gut tells me Judge won't hit a home run in that series. With Toronto needing to win each of those games to keep their postseason hopes alive, jockeying for position in the division and the wild card race, the Blue Jays will be very careful with Judge.
Plus, depending on how Toronto's rotation lines up, the Blue Jays have multiple dominant starters. Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman are having tremendous seasons.
Judge is hitting just .231 over six games in Toronto this season. Even with the anticipation and national attention, the Jays will keep Judge in the yard. That doesn't mean he won't have a quality series, he'll just return to Yankee Stadium that weekend still tied with Maris.
Yankees vs. Orioles (Sept. 30-Oct. 2)
Judge will hit his 62nd home run of the season in his first at-bat on Friday, September 30.
In this projected scenario, that snaps a drought of four games where Judge had been sitting on 61. The slugger wastes no time against the Orioles, starting the final home series of the season with a historic bang.
Part of me thinks that Judge gets this done in Toronto, but tying and breaking the record in the Bronx would be pretty special. Reminds me of when Derek Jeter broke the franchise record for hits with the 2,722nd knock of his career, passing Lou Gehrig with an opposite-field single against Baltimore at Yankee Stadium in 2009.
Similar to how Jeter made history by doing what he does best, going the other way, Judge will hit his 62nd home run to right-center field, far beyond the short porch and to the right of the Yankees' bullpen.
- Stolen Bases, Not Homers, Are Aaron Judge’s Biggest Source of Pride This Season
- Mark McGwire: Aaron Judge Will Pass Roger Maris, Challenge Barry Bonds
- Lucas Luetge Quietly Reaches Major Milestone With Yankees