Sixty-one years after Roger Maris made home run history in The Bronx, Aaron Judge has the chance to do the same.
Judge has hit 59 home runs this season and 30 of them — including the last four — have come on the road.
The other 29 have come at Yankee Stadium, where Judge and the Yankees return on Tuesday to play the Pirates, with the slugger staring at history. He needs just one more homer to become just the second American League player since Babe Ruth to hit 60 home runs and two to tie Roger Maris’ AL and franchise record of 61, which Maris set in 1961.
Asked Sunday in Milwaukee — following homers No. 58 and 59 — what it would mean to reach those next milestones in The Bronx, Judge paused and said, “If it happens during a win, that would be great. Getting a chance to do it at home would be great, too. We’ll talk if that time ever comes.”
That time could come any day, with the Yankees playing their next six games at home, with two against Pittsburgh and four versus Boston before a trip to Toronto. Judge is averaging a home run every 10.7 plate appearances or 2.41 games this season.
While Judge has chosen to not look too far ahead — which many believe to be one of the traits that’s helped him reach the heights he has this season — others around him don’t have that issue.
Gerrit Cole grew up a Yankees fan in California and went to some games at the previous Yankee Stadium. He’s expecting a raucous scene on 161st Street and River Avenue starting on Tuesday.
“[The fans] are gonna be over the edge and slapping the [wall],’’ Cole said Sunday. “There’s gonna be beer flying everywhere. It’s not gonna be a child-friendly environment in the bleachers. It’s gonna be nuts.”
For a team that hasn’t hosted a World Series game since 2009 or a postseason game since 2019, the Stadium figures to be as loud as it’s been in recent years. A steady dose of flashbulbs, smartphones and fans waiting with bated breath figure to accompany each of Judge’s at-bats.
“It should be really special,’’ Aaron Boone said of his expectations of the environment at the Stadium. “We’re in a pennant chase and with Judge sitting where he is, there’s added buzz every time he comes up. It’s an event.”
That’s been the case for most of the season, but never more than now.
Judge has also managed to add another element of drama to his season, making a run at becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera did it a decade ago. His recent stretch at the plate in which he’s gone 27-for-53 has brought his average up from .294 to .316 since Sept. 3.
And it’s hardly mattered lately if the Yankees are at home or on the road, the crowds everywhere have been focused on Judge’s at-bats for much of the season, since he began hitting homers at a furious pace.
Everything to know about Aaron Judge and his chase for the home run record:
After Judge hit his second homer of the afternoon against the Brewers at American Family Field on Sunday, he had one more at-bat, thanks to a ninth-inning Yankee rally. For the first time this season, the ball was switched out before he went to the plate, since any home run he hits now will have to be authenticated.
Judge said he was too locked in on what he needed to do to notice the ball exchange, but he may have been the only one.
Nothing else has impacted his approach this season — and neither did the ball switch — since Judge crushed a two-run double to add to the Yankees’ lead.
It’s what Boone called Judge’s “ability to not get caught up in it” that has set him apart this season — including on Sunday, as all five balls Judge put in play were tracked at over 110 mph, according to Statcast, the first time a player has ever done that in the Statcast era.
The Pirates had not announced their probable starters for the series as of Monday, but in some order they were expected to start rookie Luis Ortiz and former Yankees prospect Roansy Contreras — neither of whom Judge has previously faced.