ANAHEIM — A 434-foot drive off Angels reliever Ryan Tepera etched Aaron Judge’s name in the major league history books Monday night, as the New York Yankees slugger became only the 10th player in MLB history to record multiple 50-home run seasons.
A sold-out Angel Stadium crowd of 44,537 — one that included his parents and plenty of Yankees fans — cheered on the California-born Judge with an “MVP!” refrain as he circled the bases following his eighth-inning solo blast that bounced off the left-center-field waterfall and trimmed New York’s deficit to one in a 4-3 loss.
Judge is now on pace to hit 63 home runs this season, assuming he plays in every remaining Yankees game.
“It’s just another number,” said Judge, who was intentionally walked twice Monday before going deep. “It’s great, but I’m kind of upset we lost. It’s a close game we could’ve won.”
In 2017, during his Rookie of the Year campaign, Judge smashed 52 long balls, setting a rookie record that was broken two years later when Pete Alonso hit 53 for the New York Mets.
Judge now joins Babe Ruth (four) and Mickey Mantle (two) as the third member of the storied Yankees franchise to have had multiple 50-homer seasons while wearing pinstripes. Alex Rodriguez had one such season while playing for the Yankees (2007, with 54 homers) and two others as a member of the Texas Rangers.
There have been 10 50-home run seasons by Yankees players, the most of any MLB franchise, with the next closest team being the Chicago Cubs (five). No other franchise has more than two.
Judge becomes only the seventh player in MLB history to hit 50 home runs before the start of September; the last player to do so was current teammate Giancarlo Stanton, who had recorded 51 home runs by Aug. 29 during his 59-homer 2017 National League MVP season with the Miami Marlins.
“It’s 50, and it’s August,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s hard to wrap your mind around just how incredible of a season he’s had to this point. The one time they pitch to him he hits it off a rock. It’s really special what he’s doing.”
“It’s going to be a fun last month to see what he can do,” Stanton added. “I think he’s going to do something incredible. He already has. We’ve got a month more to watch.”
The 6-foot-7 Judge, who is batting 293/.393/.665 with 110 RBIs, is chasing the single-season Yankees record of 61 home runs established by Roger Maris in 1961. Maris had recorded 51 homers by the end of August during his legendary 1961 season.
“I’m not downplaying it. I just don’t like talking numbers,” Judge said. “We can talk about numbers and all that kind of stuff when the season’s over with, we can review it, but for right now most important thing for me is getting some wins.”
The Angels held off the Yankees with the help of two-way star and reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani, who broke a 2-all tie in the fifth inning with his 29th homer, a two-run drive to right-center. According to Caesars Sportsbook, entering Monday night, Judge (-900) and Ohtani (+600) had the shortest odds to win AL MVP this year, followed by Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez (+8000) and Houston’s Yordan Alvarez (+8000).
There were a lot of Yankees fans in attendance, so many that Judge called it a “home away from home,” and boos were audible each time the Angels walked him intentionally. But it was a fun atmosphere for Ohtani, too. Even if the MVP chants were for Judge.
“It feels rewarding to be able to play in front of a crowd like this,” Ohtani said through a team representative. “It doesn’t matter who they are cheering for, I was able to have a lot of fun playing.’ ‘
There’s a video that has gone viral on social media that shows Judge in a batting cage predicting he’s going to hit 50 home runs. His prediction was right on the number, he just had the wrong year.
“Man, that video is a couple years old,” Judge said. “I was a little late on that one. I missed it whatever year that was, might have been ’19. Like I said, I try not to think about it. The offseason, you can dream. You write down goals and stuff you want to accomplish during the year, but once the season starts you’re out here competing. It’s about trying to lock down as many wins as you can.
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.