Sept. 22 (UPI) — Aaron Judge is two big swings away from breaking Roger Maris’ single-season franchise home run record. Fans can tune in this week on national TV as the New York Yankees slugger tried for his 61st against the rival Boston Red Sox.
Judge, who hit his 60th homer Tuesday, will get his first chance to tie Maris’ 1961 single-season mark Thursday at Yankee Stadium. That game will start at 7 p.m. EDT and air on Fox’s regionalized coverage.
The series will continue Friday, Saturday and Sunday and air on Apple TV+, MLB Network and ESPN.
Excited fans have flocked to the stadium over the past few weeks to watch Judge chase history. The Yankees’ slugger, who leads the American League with a .316 batting average and MLB with 128 RBIs, said he tries not to think about the attention.
“I’ve got a job to do when I step up to the plate,” Judge told reporters Wednesday in New York. “I’m still competing. We are still trying to win games. My focus hasn’t changed. I try to tune everything out, the silence and the noise.”
Matchups vs. Red Sox
Judge, the Yankees’ regular leadoff hitter, is scheduled to face right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha, 11-1, in his first at-bat.
While Wacha, with his 2.61 earned-run average, might be imposing, the overall Red Sox pitching staff has the third-worst ERA in the American League at 4.45. The Red Sox bullpen has the second-worst ERA in the league at 4.47.
The Yankees slugger is as hot as it gets at the plate, leading MLB in barreled hits per plate appearance (15.8%), according to Statcast. The average exit velocity of Judge’s hits, 95.7 mph, leads the league.
Judge hit five home runs in 14 games earlier this season against the Red Sox, but is 0 for 14 with a walk and nine strikeouts in 15 plate appearances against Wacha. The Red Sox starter has allowed a home run in three of his last five starts and in nine of his 20 starts this season.
The Red Sox are expected to start left-handed pitcher Rich Hill on Friday and right-handed pitcher Nick Pivetta on Saturday. Right-handed pitcher Brayan Bello is set to start the series finale against Judge’s Yankees.
Judge is 2 for 4 with a double and a single in five plate appearances against Hill, who has allowed just one homer in his last five starts.
He is 5 for 11 with two homers against Pivetta, who allowed at least one home run in 17 of his 30 starts this season. Judge hit both homers off Pivetta in a Yankees 7-6 win over the Red Sox on Sept. 13 in Boston.
Judge is 1 for 2 against Bello, who has allowed one total homer in 11 appearances this season.
Judge homered five times over his last six games. He is hitting .475 (28 for 59) with nine home runs, 15 RBIs and 15 walks, in 16 games this month.
Maris’ mark, which was set in a 1-0 win over the Red Sox on Sept. 30, 1961, is next on the list of achievements Judge can match or eclipse this season. Maris’ 61 homers rank seventh in MLB history for the most in a single season. Barry Bonds hit his record of 73 in 2001 for the San Francisco Giants.
Mark McGwire (70 in 1998 and 65 in 1999) ranks second and fourth on that single season homers list. Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 64 in 2001 and 63 in 1999) ranks third, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Just 14 games remain on the Yankees’ regular-season schedule, with future matchups against the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, after the Red Sox series.
Judge averaged a home run in 41.9% of his 143 appearances this season. If he stays at that rate, he would hit five or six home runs over the final three weeks of his 2022 campaign, pushing his total to 65 or 66, which would either tie or pass McGwire for No. 4 all-time.
How to watch
All times EDT
Red Sox at Yankees at 7 p.m. on Fox
Red Sox at Yankees at 7 p.m. on Apple TV+
Red Sox at Yankees at 1:04 p.m. on MLB Network
Red Sox at Yankees at 7 p.m. on ESPN