The Red Sox insisted they were going to attack Aaron Judge.
They weren’t going to throw around him unless the situation dictated. If he made history because of that aggressiveness, so be it.
However, that wasn’t really the case until his final at-bat on Thursday night, and it nearly resulted in the superstar outfielder tying the Yankees’ single-season home run record.
After Red Sox pitchers Michael Wacha and John Schreiber walked Judge three times in his first four trips to the plate, Matt Barnes challenged him in the ninth inning with a 2-2, 96-mph fastball in the strike zone. Judge sent it 404 feet to dead center field, where Enrique Hernandez caught it two steps off the fence in the Yankees’ 10-inning, 5-4 win at the Bronx.
“With all due respect to Aaron Judge, he’s a great guy and he’s having an amazing season, I’m trying to get him out,” Barnes said. “Frankly, I don’t care about history. We’ve got a ball game to win, you know what I mean? If I allow a home run, the game is over. I’m sure he does at some point this season, and I’ll congratulate him and everything. … I will go after him. It’s just who I am.”
Judge entered the game just one home run shy of Roger Maris’ single-season Yankees and American League record for home runs with 60 in what has been one of the best offensive seasons in recent memory. He is also the American League leader in home runs, RBI and batting average.
He only saw six strikes in his first four at-bats. Each of the 13 balls thrown in his direction drew loud boos from the large crowd of 43,123. On Wednesday night, Pirates reliever Eric Stout threw around Judge in the eighth inning of a lopsided game and heard thunderous boos. Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Friday night starter Rich Hill said the Red Sox wouldn’t pitch that way, but Wacha and Schreiber went some way to Stout’s game plan.
Judge didn’t see a single strike from Wacha in his first at-bat. In the third, he walked a full-count bid and struck out in the fifth, when Judge fell to 0-for-15 for life against the 10-strikeout righty. It made sense for the Red Sox to put Judge in seventh after Kyle Higashioka’s opening double. But Schreiber threw to him, only to walk Judge on five pitches.
“Like I said before the game, we’re going to run the game to win it,” Cora said. “There were certain situations [where] we attacked him, he fouled some pitches and fired others. I think, in general, we all did what we wanted.”
Maybe Friday night will be different with Hill on the mound. The 42-year-old left-handed pitcher faced Barry Bonds in 2006 as a member of the Cubs. Bonds was on pace to move into second all-time on his career home run list that season. Hill went after him and nearly gave up home run No. 714. Juan Pierre made a homer-saving catch on a ball Bonds hit against Hill.
“You go out and throw your pitches and attack the hitter just like you would at the beginning of the season,” Hill said. “You want to face the best, you always want to go out there and compete against the best. That’s why we play this game. does not receive any [better] than this at the Major League level.”
As a Dodgers player from 1998 to 2004, Cora saw a lot of Bonds up close, including his record-breaking 73-home run season in 2001. Judge’s season is reminiscent of Bonds’ dominance back then.
Cora declined to compare this year’s judge to Bonds or say if he passes Maris, it would be the true home run record. Performance-enhancing drugs were such a part of the story of the remarkable seasons put together by Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and not a factor for Judge, who is evaluated like every other player in the modern game.
“He’s doing it in an era where it’s very difficult to hit, let’s put it that way. Leave it at that,” Cora said. “The separation between him and the rest of the players is enormous. Opposite field home runs aren’t where they used to be, especially in 2019, and this guy is still doing what he’s doing.”
Source : nypost.com