Twenty-seven homers in a 60-game season would be the equivalent of 73 homers.
This public service announcement is offered by those watching Aaron Judge this young season.
There is so much to hate about the 2020 campaign. So much to be concerned with on a daily — sometimes hourly basis. But Judge swinging a bat is none of them.
As we search for the familiar amid the abnormal, we had something that looked like a Red Sox-Yankees game Sunday night. Lots of pitchers. Lots of pitches. Lots of home runs. Lots of runs.
Judge, all 6-foot-7 of him, towered above it all. He homered for a fifth straight game. He homered twice. The second one was launched 468 feet with two outs in the eighth inning. It broke a tie. It gave the Yankees a 9-7 triumph and a three-game sweep of the Red Sox.
Judge is the first Yankee to homer in five straight games since Alex Rodriguez in September 2007. He is the first Yankee to homer six times in the first eight games of the season since A-Rod, also in 2007. A-Rod hit 54 homers and won the AL MVP that year.
What would an MVP mean in this shortened season? What would it mean to hit a prorated total of 73 homers, the single-season record that Barry Bonds amassed in 2001? Those questions are going to be for history to determine if this MLB campaign can even get to the finish line.
But when there is such persistent worry about playing next week, much less September or October, take the joys where you can get them. And Judge swinging like the season is his personal Home Run Derby falls into that category. Judge has a .903 slugging percentage, fueling the Yankees to a major league-best 7-1 record.
“I really think he is on a mission right now,” Aaron Boone said.
That, the Yankees manager, says is just from finally shedding injury. Judge fractured a rib, the Yankees believe, last September, but it was not diagnosed until the spring. He would not have been able to begin the season on time had COVID-19 not shuttered the game.
It was uncertain if Judge would make it for even the delayed start of this season. When Judge recognized he was healed and could unleash perhaps the most fearsome swing in the world, “It lit another fuse for him,” Boone said.
And with James Paxton and his decelerated fastball starting Sunday, the Yankees were going to have to hit their way to a sixth straight win. Paxton admitted, “I’m concerned” after his fastball average continued to be 4 mph less than the 95.5 of last year. He was not helped by poor outfield defense from Miguel Andujar and Aaron Hicks. But Paxton was hit hard in putting the Yankees into a 2-0 deficit in the first that Judge erased with a three-run blast in the second.
In all Paxton permitted five runs (three earned) in three innings, has in two starts given up eight runs on 12 hits in four innings and, to date, and has emerged as the most worrisome element on the active Yankee roster.
Michael King relieved and in four innings yielded just two hits, but they were homers by Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, who together nearly won this game for the Red Sox with excellence on both sides of the ball. Those two runs were the only ones that the Yankee bullpen was tagged for in 15 ²/₃ innings in this series.
Still, the Red Sox led 7-6 with two out and none on when Mike Tauchman and DJ LeMahieu made sure to get Judge a swing in the eighth inning. Tauchman had gone in to defend for Andujar and walked then stole a base to position himself for LeMahieu’s opposite-field tying single to right.
That brought up Judge to face Matt Barnes. Gleyber Torres was on deck and struggling while Judge was ablaze. So when the Red Sox reliever fell behind 2-0, it looked like he was willing to walk Judge if need be and try to get out of the inning against Torres. But he then had a curveball back up on the inner corner and Judge made you wonder what the Stadium would have sounded like if there were fans to react.
“It would have been fun to hear the crowd after Judge’s homers,” LeMahieu said.
Instead, you could just discern the euphoria from the Yankee dugout. They had a two-run lead. They had a six-game winning streak once Zack Britton went 1-2-3 in the ninth. Right now they have the scariest power hitter in the game.
“He is just a great player who is feeling really good and getting close to being locked in,” Boone said.
Oh yeah, Boone doesn’t think Judge — six homers in eight games — is fully locked in yet. That also was a public service. This one to major league pitchers that a better version than even this Judge might be lurking.