New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has gone through a bit of everything in his rookie season: A remarkable first half that earned him early MVP recognition; Home Run Derby heroics in Miami; a major, strikeout-filled second-half swoon; and finally, a late homer barrage to push the likely American League Rookie of the Year's season total to 52.
Judge got his first taste of postseason play on Tuesday night and did not disappoint. A cast of ESPN reporters were on hand to chronicle the rookie's big day.
Making a postseason splash
Aaron Judge reached out and sent a soft liner into center in his first major league postseason at-bat. Judge worked the count to 2-2 against Ervin Santana before using his 6-foot-7 reach and his 282 pounds of power to flick a slider to center to put runners on the corners in the first with no outs.
Starting with Yankees manager Joe Girardi, there have been comparisons between Aaron Judge and Derek Jeter. The one question that Judge hadn't answered is: Does he have Jeter's knack for being clutch? Well, Judge has put the first exclamation on his amazing rookie year. In the fourth, he pulled a two-run homer just over the left field wall to extend the Yankees lead to three runs. The crowd chanted, "MVP! MVP! MVP!" as Judge entered the dugout.
Aaron Judge is the 3rd rookie in Yankees history to homer in his postseason debut (Elston Howard did it in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series against the Dodgers and Shane Spencer did it in Game 1 of the 1998 ALDS against the Rangers) (via: Elias Sports Bureau).
The Yankees' Aaron Judge just missed another home run in the seventh inning, hitting a long drive just foul down the left field line. Twins' reliever Trevor Hildenberger ended up walking Judge.
The Yankees are wild card winners after a come-from-behind 8-4 win over the Twins in a roller coaster of a game. The Yankees overcame starter Luis Severino lasting just one out and giving up two homers in the first, as four relievers picked up the slack, allowing just one run the rest of the night. Aroldis Chapman recorded the final three outs. Didi Gregorius hit a three-run homer to tie the game in the first, while Aaron Judge extended the lead in the fourth with a two-run long ball.
Yankee Stadium was absolutely electric Tuesday night -- and the hero of the AL wild-card game, Aaron Judge, noticed. "I was feeding off the crowd all night. They came in force tonight. They were behind us even when we were down early. I was just feeding off them," the rookie slugger said in the champagne-soaked clubhouse after the game. "I can't really describe it to be honest. The couple games I've played, Yankees-Red Sox here, it was pretty electric, it was probably the best crowds I've seen. But this was times 10, times 20 that."
Scenes from Yankee Stadium
The Yankees are opening The Judge's Chambers this postseason to young fans and "everyday heroes" from the community. Tonight's lucky guest judges: students from P.S.-M.S. 89 in the Bronx, who are being recognized for their academic achievement and service.
MLB officials said today that Aaron Judge sold more jerseys as a rookie than any player in baseball history. We stood at the turnstiles tonight. In the first 15 minutes, we counted 61 Judge jerseys and 48 Jeter jerseys, which is pretty remarkable considering No. 2's run in the Bronx.
BP. MLB playoffs. Aaron Judge. He plays it pretty casual despite the postseason atmosphere — well, if you count depositing a frozen rope line drive over the left-center field wall at Yankee Stadium (which he does with ease during one of several turns at the dish) as casual.
Yankees rookie Aaron Judge chooses his lumber and takes the field for his first postseason batting practice. He passes none other than Mr. October — Reggie Jackson — on his way to the cage.
The Yankee Stadium gates have only recently opened to fans. Count the Poling family from Stratford, Connecticut — Emmalee (8), Ryan (5), Shawn and Jillian — among the first to arrive. Ryan's Aaron Judge All-Star jersey and Emmalee's sign make it clear who they're here to see.
Earlier this season, the Yankees started selling Aaron Judge robes, which at the time cost $80. Realizing it was much more of a novelty than a jersey, the team changed the robes and lowered the price to $30. Sales picked up significantly.
October has come to The Judge's Chambers at Yankee Stadium. The traditional playoff bunting that hangs around the facade of the stadium during the playoffs now also adorns the Baby Bomber's special section in right field. Later, students from P.S.-M.S. 89 in the Bronx will take their seats here as guests of honor for tonight's AL wild-card game against the Minnesota Twins.
Yankees gave seats to the "Judge's Chambers" tonight to Bronx students, who were picked for their academic achievements.
What does Mr. October expect tonight from Aaron Judge? "I expect him to take me to Cleveland," said Yankees legend Reggie Jackson, who went on to explain what he thinks makes the rookie so special.
Each time you look up at Aaron Judge (yes, look way up), he's got a smile on his face. Looks quite loose ahead of his first career playoff game.
Numbers to know
Aaron Judge tailed off after the All-Star break, hitting over 100 points lower and slugging 143 points lower. But he was great at home all season, breaking Babe Ruth's single-season team record by hitting 33 home runs at home. Judge faced Ervin Santana in one previous game, going 1-3 with a home run on Sept. 18 at Yankee Stadium.
No surprise: Aaron Judge is hitting second in the Yankees' starting lineup tonight against the Twins in the AL wild-card game. During the regular season, Judge hit in the 2-hole in 28 games, launching 13 home runs in 127 plate appearances. That's his second-highest tater total in any spot; he hit 17 in 285 plate appearances batting third. With this young group, manager Joe Girardi has preferred to slot his best hitter No. 2. Judge has owned the spot lately; All-Star catcher Gary Sanchez started the year there.
Crushing fastballs helped Aaron Judge finish the regular season strong. He hit .185 in at-bats ending on fastballs in the first 46 games of the second half. In his final 25 games, he hit .500 in such at-bats with a 1.525 slugging percentage.