How do you tick off 46,175 New Yorkers in the middle of an eight-run Yankees eighth inning? You walk Aaron Judge.
Judge’s fourth at-bat Wednesday night came and went anticlimactically in the seventh inning, when he grounded out on the first pitch to him from the Pirates’ Miguel Yajure. The main reason most of the fans at Yankee Stadium had stuck around was to watch Judge attempt to match Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs.
After that groundout, the assumption was that the chase would continue for another night. Then, however, the Yankees came up in the eighth and started hitting. And all of a sudden, Judge — the eighth batter due up when the inning began — got to the plate for a fifth time.
Cue the standing, the buzz, that anticipation. Who cared about the score, which ended up 14-2? The Pirates were falling victim to an avalanche, with six Yankees runs already having scored in the inning, a man on second and one out. It looked to be Judge’s moment.
Eric Stout, though, didn’t let that happen. The lefty reliever said afterwards he wasn’t thinking about 61, Maris or any of that. But he sure did pitch as if he were, walking Judge on four pitches that weren’t especially close to the zone.
“The changeup’s been a good pitch for me this season,” Stout said. “I think that was the game plan going into the at-bat. Regardless of nobody on, bases loaded, doesn’t really matter. I got [Anthony] Rizzo behind him as a lefty. With a base open, I’m very good versus lefties this year. That was more of the approach.
“I’m not gonna give in [on] 2-0, 3-0, throw him something, regardless of who it is, especially with a lefty on deck. So that was the approach.”
The crowd responded accordingly, booing as few crowds have ever booed in the latter stages of a blowout by the home team.
“Yeah, I kind of figured that’s what the crowd reaction was gonna be,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “I’ve been to Yankee Stadium a lot of times. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody stay when the score’s like that, but you know, there was everybody in the ballpark.”
Even though the crowd left disappointed not to have witnessed history, fans did see Judge double twice, reach base three times and score twice. Following his 60th home run on Tuesday, that added up to this assessment from Shelton when asked about how his 55-94 ballclub handled Judge:
“I mean,” Shelton said, “he hit the one home run. … You have to be able, not only with him, but with the entire lineup, you have to be able to execute pitches.