1 of 5 | New York Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge hits his 61st home run of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 29 (UPI) -- New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge cracked his bat into a 3-2 sinker, sending the pitch into the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen for his long-awaited, record-tying 61st home run and sparking a victory in Toronto.
The 394-foot, two-run homer Wednesday at Rogers Centre tied Roger Maris for the Yankees and American League single-season record, which was set in 1961. Judge's blast also gave the Yankees a decisive lead in the 8-3 victory.
Judge hit his 60th home run -- tying Babe Ruth for the ninth most in a single season -- Sept. 20. He then went on a seven-game home run drought, tied for his second-longest such skid this season.
"There is definitely some relief getting to 61," Judge told reporters. "You try not to think about it, but it definitely creeps into your head. Getting the chance to do it in a Yankee win and when [pitcher] Gerrit Cole ties the all-time [franchise] single-season strikeout record, that's a pretty special day."
The Yankees and Blue Jays were tied at 3-3 through six innings. Yankees left fielder Aaron Hicks led off the seventh with a single to center field. Judge then settled in against Blue Jays relief pitcher Tim Mayza. The left handed pitcher missed the strike zone with his first offering, but then forced a swing and miss on a 1-0 sinker.
Judge took another two balls and fouled off three other pitchers to work the count full. Mayza ended the exchange by throwing a 94.5-mph sinker over the middle of the plate.
Judge whipped his bat through the wind and belted the offering 58 feet above the field before it flew under a fans glove beyond the left field fence and landed in the bullpen. The historic blast traveled 117 mph off his bat and left the field in 3.8 seconds, according to Statcast.
"When I hit it, I thought I got enough, but it had been a couple games since I did that," Judge said. "Once it got over the fence there was relief that now that we were leading the game.
"Getting the chance to tie Roger Maris. ... That's stuff you dream about. It's not even real."
Judge, who went 1 for 4 with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored, has totaled the seventh-most home runs in a single season in MLB history. He can tie Chicago Cubs legend Sammy Sosa for sixth with two home long balls.
Sosa also ranks fifth for his 64 home runs in 2001 and third for his 66 bombs in 1998. St. Louis Cardinals legend Mark McGwire ranks fourth from his 65-homer season in 1999 and second for his 70-homer campaign in 1998. San Francisco Giants legend Barry Bonds set the MLB record with his 73 homer season in 2001.
Judge is on pace to hit two or three more home runs this season, which could put him in the Top 5 for the most ever hit in a single season.
"Getting to be linked with him forever is a moment I'll never forget," Judge said of tying Maris. "I'll definitely cherish it. ... This is something special, but we're not done yet."
The Yankees (96-59) will host the Baltimore Orioles (80-75) at 7:05 p.m. EDT Friday at Yankee Stadium.
New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hits his 62nd home run of the season in the first inning, breaking the American League record and the record held by Roger Maris during game 2 of a double header against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas on October 4, 2022. Photo by Matt Pearce/UPI | License Photo