The anticipation has been simmering for weeks, bursting at the seams to see the record-breaking home run off the bat of Aaron Judge. The euphoric release from Yankees fans will be palpable if No. 62 occurs over the next 36 hours, cementing Judge’s place in baseball’s history with one stroke through the batter’s box. Tuesday’s afternoon-night doubleheader against the Texas Rangers represents games Nos. 160 and 161 for New York this season, with tomorrow afternoon’s tilt being the regular-season finale. In the span of that trio of games, Judge should make about 10 more plate appearances against the Texas Rangers. It’d be one of the sports’ greatest cases of blue balls if Judge finishes the season tied with Roger Maris.
We all waited for the biggest single achievement in baseball in two decades. It would be such a dud if Judge doesn’t finish the job. Today has to be the day Judge becomes the American League’s home-run king and smacks No. 62 out of Globe Life Field. A doubleheader against the golf-course-bound Rangers, who haven’t had a solid rotation in the 21st century despite possessing such names as Cliff Lee, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, and Cole Hamels, should be a catalyst. Yes, the Yankees already had one crack against Texas, a 3-1 win on Monday with Judge going 1-for-4 at the plate, with the outfielder’s lone hit being an infield single.
Playing in a ballpark gaining a reputation for being hitter-friendly in Arlington, just like its in-town predecessor that’s the new venue for the area’s XFL franchise helps. By Judge’s standards, he’s in a longball slump. He hit No. 60 on Sept. 20, two weeks ago, against Pittsburgh. His last home run was only six days ago, but with the walls closing in on chances left to do it, the more desperate every hack becomes to make history. Jon Gray is Texas’ starter in Tuesday’s early game and Judge is 0-for-1 all-time against him. Gray is 7-7 with a 3.93 ERA on the season and has looked predictably average this season. The Rangers haven’t listed a starter for tonight’s game yet, but it’s likely to be Kolby Allard, who was added to the team’s roster for the doubleheader. Tomorrow’s starter facing Judge is slated to be Glenn Otto, who is 6-10 with a 4.72 ERA this season.
It’s a weird thought to know that by dinner-time tomorrow, we’ll know where Judge lands in history, with no guarantee he’ll post these single-season stats again. Just like Barry Bonds, whose second-highest single-season home run total was 49 the year before his 73-longball effort in 2001. The appointment television to solely watch Judge that’s interrupted college football for the last two weeks will end as focus shifts to teams competing in the postseason. And if Judge doesn’t hit at least one more homer, what a letdown that’ll be. I’m betting on all of us going to sleep tonight not wondering if game No. 162 will be where he hits his 62nd home run of the year. Judge is setting the record against Texas today. Bank on it.