Bronx, N.Y., September 25, 2017; Yankees 11, Kansas City 3 — In a sudden rash of power hitting, Aaron Judge has recaptured the attention of all of baseball, as his two home runs in an 11-3 win over Kansas City Monday afternoon, and four long balls in two days, have vaulted him to the all-time rookie season record of 50. The mark seemed out of reach a few weeks ago, but the young slugger has rediscovered his mojo. And he was not alone in his super shenanigans, as fellow young’uns Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird went yard as well.
With home field in the AL Wild Card game not yet locked up, and the Yankees not having given up on a long shot chance at catching Boston for the division title, fans and the team strained to not look at individual accomplishments, but rather focus on winning the remainder of their games. But Judge made it hard, with a 400-foot shot to the warning track in center in the first, and a two-run shot — tying him with Mark McGwire’s 21-year-old record — in the third.
This latter gave the home team a 3-0 lead with a superb — make that perfect — CC Sabathia dealing against the Royals, a club whose run at a Wild Card berth disintegrated in a string of losses this past week. Keyed by a Sanchez double and Didi Gregorius’s fielder’s choice grounder, the Yanks took a 1-0, first-inning lead, while CC was retiring the first 10 visiting batters on a nifty 40 throws. And Kansas City would waste five baserunners in the fourth through sixth. Some solid infield play, a caught stealing — with Sanchez double clutching before releasing a powerful throw no less — punctuated by a smooth as silk double play carried a three-hit shutout into the seventh.
But not before Yankee youth roared again. Once Sanchez’s deep (and high) fly to left to start the home sixth was caught at the wall, Bird followed a Gregorius single, Matt Holiday double, with a 1-1 missile to right, reaching the first row of the second deck, and staying there, 6-0 Yanks. And it was a good thing, because CC’s first eight pitches of the seventh were hit for a single and back-to-back home runs. Chad Green, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle held KC on just two walks to finish the game; on 16 pitches in the eighth, DRob struck out the side, as six of the nine outs were strike outs.
CC was in command, and economical, retiring 18 of 21 through six, seven on ground balls. He threw 17 first-pitch strikes to 24 batters, and his strikes/balls count was, at 57/23, what Joe Girardi would say is “what you’d want.” The bullpen was the solid wall we’ve come to expect. Everyone in the first six spots in the batting order both scored and drove in runs.
But the star of this show was Aaron Judge, who brought everyone to their feet with a no-doubt-about-it shot to right on a 2-1 pitch in the bottom of the seventh, one for the history books. It’s a good day for a Yankee highlight, even for the youngest of fans, as Derek Jeter cemented an already solid place in Yankee lore with a bottom of the ninth walkoff single in his last game in the Bronx on September 25, 2014, his last game at shortstop in any venue. In history of a different kind, or arena, television and motion picture star Will Smith, to several generations of Americans the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was born on this day in 1968.
I’m not going to evoke Yankees further in the past, so many of whom I’ve watched play, rooted for, and loved. And who can say what watching Ruth and Gehrig would have been like? But this 2017 Judge season is one of a kind. Babe Ruth was the sultan, the Sultan of Swat. So for now, let’s just make Aaron Judge Bronx royalty of a less lofty variety, maybe …
A Bronx Prince