NEW YORK — Only five players had hit 60 home runs in a single season in the history of the major leagues — that is, until New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge joined that exclusive club with a solo homer against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.
Judge turned on a sinker from right-hander Wil Crowe leading off the final frame and drove it 430 feet into the left-field bleachers, sparking a five-run, ninth-inning rally for a 9-8 win.
He took a rare curtain call, forced by his teammates.
“I really didn’t want to do it, especially, we’re losing. It’s a solo shot,” he said.
“He hit 60 tonight, and it’s like nothing happened. He’s got more work to do, and that’s the mindset, and that’s how it will always be. It’s fun to be a part of,” said Giancarlo Stanton, who delivered a game-ending grand slam.
The All-Star outfielder is now one home run shy of tying Roger Maris’ American League single-season record of 61 home runs, set in 1961, which also stood as the major league mark for 37 years.
With his 60th home run, the 6-foot-7 Judge tied Babe Ruth (1927) for eighth place on the single-season home run list.
“I don’t think about the numbers,” Judge said. “When you talk about Ruth and Maris and [Mickey] Mantle and all these Yankees greats that did so many great things in this game, you never imagine as a kid being mentioned with them. It’s an incredible honor. It’s something I don’t take lightly at all. But we’re not done. We still have a couple games left in this season and hopefully a couple of more wins come with them.
“I’m trying to enjoy it all, soak it all in, but I know I still have a job to do out on the field every single day and I just have to keep my head down, keep preparing and stay mentally focused.”
The Yankees maintained a 5½-game AL East lead over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Judge’s 60th home run came off a pitcher whose great-great uncle, Hall of Famer Red Ruffing, was Ruth’s teammate on the Yankees in the 1930s. Crowe visited Ruffing’s plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park before the game.
“[Judge] did what he was supposed to do with it,” Crowe said, “3-1 count, I’m not going to put him on. I felt like I wanted to go after him. Started away, came back in. He put a good swing on a bad pitch.”
Roger Maris Jr. and Kevin Maris, sons of the former player, were both on hand. Specially marked balls were used each time Judge walked to the plate. Fans in the outfield seats stood, and many groaned with each foul ball.
But they erupted with Judge’s shot in the ninth.
“I think there’s something to be said for that kind of igniting, in a game we’re down four runs, igniting some kind of magical spark that kind of went tonight in that inning. That was a special one,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
There have now been nine 60-home run seasons in MLB history, achieved by six different players. Judge joined Hall of Famers Ruth and Maris, as well as Barry Bonds (2001), Mark McGwire (1999, 1998) and Sammy Sosa (2001, 1999, 1998).
Judge’s 59 home runs were already the most by a right-handed batter in AL history. Judge had also already joined Ruth (four) and Mickey Mantle (two) as only the third member of the storied Yankees franchise to have multiple 50-HR seasons while wearing pinstripes.
Judge also took over the Triple Crown lead Tuesday night, with his .316 batting average moving into the AL lead as Minnesota Twins first baseman Luis Arraez’s dropped to .314. Judge, who is all but a lock to lead the league in homers and RBIs (128), has a chance to become the 11th player to win the Triple Crown since RBIs became official in 1920.
He is the first player since Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012 to lead all three categories in September or later, and the first Yankee to do it since Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
No one else in the majors has more than 40 homers.
“To be that far ahead of the field,” Boone marveled, “it’s hard for me to grip.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.