Aaron Judge’s previous three plate appearances resulted in three strikeouts. But when he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning Thursday, that didn’t matter.
All he needed was one big swing — with the tying and go-ahead runners aboard — to turn a forgettable night into a memorable one.
“I knew this was my time to come up and forget about the past and come up big for my teammates,” Judge said on a Zoom call from Baltimore. “They were counting on me. It’s times like that you got to get the job done.”
Judge came through all right, assuring the Yankees of an 18th straight win over the Orioles after they blew an early five-run lead. His second homer of the year, and second in as many days, propelled the Yankees to a come-from-behind 8-6 victory at Camden Yards, capping a bizarre season-opening road trip that included four wins in five games.
After Jonathan Loaisiga coughed up the lead in the bottom of the eighth, allowing a two-run shot to Pedro Severino, the Yankees’ long win streak over the Orioles was in doubt. But after Gio Urshela drew a leadoff walk and DJ LeMahieu singled with one out to the opposite field, Judge gave the Yankees the lead for good, teeing off on a 2-1 Cole Sulser offering and sending it way back into the empty seats in left field.
“I had a good view of DJ’s base hit to right field. A lot of pitches, I was kind of pulling off, not really staying through it in the middle of the field,” Judge said. “Kind of seeing a nice swing from DJ locked me in. I just had to come up big.”
The Yankees now return home to open a three-game series in The Bronx against the rival Red Sox having won three in a row, with two contests against the Phillies postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. There won’t be fans at the Stadium on Friday night as the Yankees open their 30-game home schedule, just another layer to this strange abbreviated season.
“We’re looking forward to it. This team loves to play in New York, so we’re excited about that,” Judge said. “It’s definitely going to be different, Yankee home opener with no fans. That’s one thing I always look forward to every single year is that place gets rocking on Opening Day for us. During the intros, everything like that, it’s something special.
“It’s definitely going to be different, but we’re just looking forward to sleeping in our own beds and being at home.”