Yankees-Pirates games in late September aren’t supposed to feel like this. For the most part, they aren’t really supposed to feel like anything.
But as the gates opened on Wednesday night and fans began streaming into the outfield seats — and that was indeed where they tended to go — the air over Yankee Stadium hummed with anticipation. Aaron Judge would lead off for the Yankees in just over 90 minutes.
This would be his first shot at history.
Judge whacked his 60th home run of the season in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, helping spark a Yankees rally that ended in Giancarlo Stanton’s walk-off grand slam.
Wednesday against right-hander Roansy Contreras, a rookie pitcher who had never faced Judge prior, would be his first chance to tie Roger Maris’ American League record of 61.
For a club that does like to play up its history, Wednesday did carry the weight of the moment. Aaron Boone’s pregame news conference, usually a forgettable affair, lasted over 17 minutes. At one point, Boone was asked what he tells his wife and kids about Judge.
Everything to know about Aaron Judge and his chase for the home run record:
Not much, was the answer.
The Yankees came in with a chance to clinch a playoff berth and, despite that being somewhat of a formality, it would in a normal circumstance have carried the day’s stories. Instead, it was consigned to an afterthought.
You got the sense there would be only one event for which champagne would feel worthy. And it was not the guarantee of October baseball.