NEW YORK — Aaron Judge's 60th home run of the season ignited an improbable and iconic ninth-inning rally on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, the first blow that led to a walk-off win over the Pirates.
The blast gave Judge entry into the extremely exclusive 60-homer club, a group that hasn't seen a new member in pinstripes since Roger Maris set the American League record and Yankees franchise record with 61 in 1961.
Judge's home run on Tuesday night held more historic significance than just the slugger's pursuit of Maris, becoming the sixth player ever to reach 60 long balls in a single season.
By going deep in the ninth inning, after beginning the game 0-for-4 with a walk, Judge pushed his batting average back up to .316 on the season. With Twins left-hander Luis Arraez and Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts both going hitless on Tuesday night, that meant Judge now stands alone in the American League batting title race. His .316 average is one percentage point ahead of Bogaerts entering play on Wednesday, two ahead of Arraez.
Therefore, with 15 games remaining on the Yankees schedule in the regular season, Judge is presently on track to not only blow by the home run record in the American League, but also win a Triple Crown.
Judge has a substantial lead in the home run and RBI categories in the AL. Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez is 23 homers behind Judge and Cleveland's third baseman José Ramírez is 13 RBI behind Judge's 128.
If No. 99 can hold off Bogaerts, Arraez and a couple other hitters in the AL the rest of the way, he'd be the second player since 1967 to win a Triple Crown, joining Miguel Cabrera (who did it with the Tigers in 2012). Only two other Yankees—Lou Gehrig (1934) and Mickey Mantle (1956)—have ever led the league in average, home runs and RBI in a single season in franchise history.
Judge leads the league in countless offensive categories at this point, but for him to take the No. 1 spot on the batting average leaderboard this late in the season is truly remarkable. The 30-year-old has never hit higher than .287 in a single campaign.
He's been able to get to this point thanks to a recent stretch where he's gone absolutely nuclear at the plate. Judge has reached base in each of his last 19 games, batting .471/.580/1.029 (32-for-68) with 22 runs scored, 11 homers, 19 RBI and 27 walks (eight intentional) in that span.
Widening our lens a bit further, Judge is hitting .386/.518/.883 (76-for-197) in his last 56 contests. His batting average on the year has gone up from .274 to .316 in that stretch (dating back to July 16).
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