Aaron Judge still locked in despite home run chase coming down to the wire

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Aaron Judge said it would have been “nice” to hit his 62nd home run of the season at home and “do something special like that for the home fans,” but at the end of the day, he didn’t feel any pressure to break his tie with Roger Maris in the Yankees’ final home series this weekend.

“I have a job to do, to get ready for the postseason,” Judge said after going homerless for the three-game set. “There have been stretches throughout this year where I’ve had at-bats where I didn’t get too much to hit or pitchers nibbled, but that comes with the territory. When I get a pitch to hit I have to drive it, and if not, I have to pass the baton. I had some opportunities today and just missed out, but I just have to hope the guy behind you picks us up.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone noted Sunday something he’s said multiple times before (and so has Judge) in discussing Judge’s chase of Maris: as easy as Judge makes it look, hitting a homer is hard.

“Obviously that would’ve been amazing to do it here, but as we’ve said, it’s really hard to hit a home run, especially when the circumstances are what they are,” Boone said. “A lot of things have to sync up for even the greatest of the great to go deep. Obviously would’ve been great to see here, but we move on.”

Judge says he isn’t any more exhausted than he has been at the end of any 162-game season, nor does he want to take a day off in Texas – “maybe not play both ends of (Tuesday’s) doubleheader, but we have quite a few days off after (Wednesday) so that’s when I’ll rest,” he said – but his skipper has to wonder if this is all weighing on his MVP candidate, and whether or not a mental day off will help.

“I think it’s been a lot, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily worn him down any more than it being the time of year it is,” Boone said. “I’m sure on some level he wants to get it done and over with, and no question I think he wanted to get it done here, but I don’t think it weighs on him too much. But, we’ll continue to work through whether we think he needs a day off or not.”

With four games left, the Yankees’ remaining slate is window-dressing, as they’re locked into the No. 2 seed in the AL and used Sunday to insert Chi Chi Gonzalez into the rotation as an extra starter to be able to let everyone else besides Nestor Cortes get their last turn in Texas – and that, Judge says, is the luxury that means most to the Yankees right now.

“Thankfully were in a position where we’ve won the division, so these last couple games we can line ourselves up for the postseason,” he said.

But, finally, 158 games into the most historic season in Yankees history, Judge finally gave a glimpse into what this whole situation may mean in his heart and mind.

“This is incredible. Yankees fans are the best out there, and they continue to show the support day in and day out. They’re on their feet screaming, and then you can hear a pin drop before a pitch is thrown. Pretty cool,” Judge said of the atmosphere at Yankee Stadium over the last two homestands. “You appreciate it and feel it and hear it, but when you step in the box, you have to block it out. It’s time to do your job and not get caught up in the moment.”

Of course, his finish to that thought on atmosphere was “that’ll gear us up for the postseason,” so he of course turned it back to the team, staying humble while the literal weight of Yankees Universe rests on his shoulders.

“This is a good place to be. Very few people get this opportunity, and for me to do it in a Yankee uniform and be tied with Roger Maris, that’s a special feat right there,” Judge said. “We still have four more games to go, and my teammates keep me humble.”

And four more games (hopefully) to make a run at the Triple Crown, too, ending Sunday with a .311 average that is four points behind Minnesota’s Luis Arraez for the only category he isn’t crushing (he is eight RBI up on Jose Ramirez and 22 homers up on Mike Trout).

But even that, of course, isn’t on his mind, as well as he had been hitting in the second half before going 8-for-30 (and counting) since hitting No. 60 against Pittsburgh last Tuesday.

“That would be amazing, but we’re still a long way from that, so we’ll see how the next four games go,” he said with a smile.

Oh, yeah, and four more games for one record-setting home run, too.

“Yeah, it didn’t happen,” he said with a smile, “but the season’s not over yet!”

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroWFAN

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