Aaron Judge is paid to do what he did Tuesday night, even when he is not getting paid what he wants. The crowd was standing and cheering with one out in the ninth, two men on, and the home team down a couple of runs to Toronto in a contest that felt more like a heavyweight fight in the old Stadium, not a baseball game in the not-so-new one.
The fans were demanding a walk-off home run from the gentle giant, and that’s what the gentle giant gave them, the first of his career. Facing an 0-2 count, and then a 1-2 count, Judge fouled off two pitches before he took full measure of a fifth slider from Jordan Romano, the second straight at 84 mph.
He made contact, and it didn’t matter that it had gotten cold and windy, or that the ball wasn’t traveling at all in these conditions. All that mattered was that the 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge made contact.
“He said, ‘Forget the wind, I’ll hit the second deck anyway,’ ” Aaron Boone said.
Judge launched his moon shot 450 feet into the left-field stands to give the Yankees a 6-5 victory, then took a magical ride around the bases as the building turned upside down.
“What an at-bat,” Boone said.
What a night.
“This is a heavyweight game in May,” Boone had told his bench coach Carlos Mendoza.
It was won by a heavyweight hitter who will get his money, big money, before or after he becomes a free agent.
Judge said he was just trying to do his job up there, just trying to get a pitch to drive, just blah, blah, blah.
“Playing here in New York, you got a situation like that every single day,” he reasoned, “every single at-bat.”
The slugger was still trying to keep a big moment small, deflecting a suggestion that this wild and crazy, multi-comeback victory was more evidence that this 21-8 team is special. Judge didn’t want to make that statement with 133 games to go.
But this wasn’t just any springtime breakthrough. It sure didn’t feel like a Tuesday night in May, at least when Giancarlo Stanton turned a 3-0 game into a 3-3 game with a flick of his powerful wrists in the sixth, sending the ball high and just far enough for one of those, you know, Little League homers to right that drive opposing managers and pitchers mad.
Little did anyone know that the fireworks show was just beginning.
Two pitches later, Yimi Garcia drilled Josh Donaldson in the left elbow with a fastball delivered with bad intentions. It looked and smelled like payback, even if it made little sense to hand a home team with momentum a potential go-ahead runner. Logic dictated that Toronto wouldn’t want to give a helping hand to its division leader, but Judge and a few other Yankees had reason to jump up to the dugout rail and shout toward the mound.
Nobody was warned after Yankees reliever Miguel Castro hit Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the top of the inning, though it wasn’t clear if Gurriel had even been clipped by the pitch. It seemed the umps, led by crew chief Alfonso Marquez, would be smart to warn both sides and then get out of the way of what was developing into a great, spirited ballgame.
In other words, let the kids play.
But Marquez decided that Garcia had disqualified himself, inspiring an uprising in the Toronto dugout that led to the ejection of the pitching coach, Pete Walker. Marquez would explain later that Donaldson and Toronto catcher Tyler Heineman had earlier exchanged heated words. Whatever. All that mattered was this: When Donaldson got hit, Judge got mad.
“It kinda got me going a little bit,” he said. “When something like that happens, it’s, ‘OK, we’ve got to go out there and win this one.’ ”
Everyone was on edge, and on the edge of their seats, in anticipation of the next incident. And sure enough, in the top of the seventh, Jonathan Loaisiga threw sorta up and sorta in on Bo Bichette, who dramatically jerked his head backward — like an NBA defender flopping for a charge call — and sent his helmet and rock-star hair flying.
This time Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo got tossed for protesting, and he reacted with almost comical incredulity before heading onto the field and ripping plate umpire Lance Barrett in a gentlemanly way — with his hand over his mouth to either cloak his profanity or to protect the ump in a pandemic. Or both.
No, Boone would not have handled it with half of Montoyo’s restraint. Nic Lentz felt his nose-to-nose wrath in 2018. Brendan Miller famously got it the following year, when the Yankees’ manager told him his hitters were “f—ing savages in that box.” Marty Foster got it last week, when a borderline strike at Judge’s expense compelled Boone to angrily toss his chewing gum after the ump angrily tossed him at the start of a wildly entertaining faceoff.
But there was nothing entertaining Tuesday night about the way Yankees-Blue Jays was officiated. In the end, who cares? Two division rivals developing a genuine dislike for each other played a game in the second week of May that felt like a game in the third week of September.
And the best player on the field settled it in the most dramatic way. On cue, Aaron Judge won this heavyweight fight with a last-minute heavyweight punch.
SOURCE: New york post