Yankees captain Aaron Judge saved one of his career’s best hitting performances for Saturday’s 7-4, 10-inning win at the Cincinnati Reds — and he did so with MLB hit king Pete Rose watching behind the plate.
Judge’s 4-for-4 day featured a walk and three RBI, including the go-ahead single up the middle in the 10th inning that scored Greg Allen and put the Yankees up 5-4 — right before Anthony Rizzo‘s home run one at-bat later polished off the eventual final score.
“When the hit king’s in town, you’ve got to put some hits out there,” Judge said. “And our offense, up and down the lineup, did that — especially Benny (Ben Rortvedt), in his first game in the big leagues this year and with the Yankees. Man, it’s cool to see him go out there and get a couple knocks. He was big for us behind the plate and had some great at-bats.”
Despite falling behind against Ian Gibaut in an 0-2 count and one out while the go-ahead run — Allen — stood 90 feet away on third base, Judge rose to the occasion, pulling Gibaut’s breaking ball at 86 mph down the left-field line.
“Just in your mind, you’ve got to always know that — in a situation like that, you’re at the plate, it doesn’t matter the count,” Judge said. “The pitcher, he’s the one in the jam. You’re up there, you’ve got a chance to give your team the lead. And I’ve got Rizzo behind me, DJ LeMahieu behind me. It’s just about taking a breath, going up there with confidence. It doesn’t matter if it’s 0-1, 0-2, 3-2 — go up there and stick to your plan, be aggressive and make something happen.
“So, up there in that situation, I swung and missed at the first two. But I knew that, sooner or later, I was going to get something over the plate and not miss it.”
The Yankees (28-20) secured their second straight series victory and have won 10 of their past 13 games dating back to May 7, when they lost 8-7 at the Tampa Bay Rays, but Judge knows they have work to do.
“We’re still not there yet,” said Judge, who is slashing .299/.400/.642 with 13 home runs and 32 RBI through 38 games this season. “We still haven’t clicked. But what I like to see is just guys having competitive at-bats. Guys are up there grinding down pitchers. It doesn’t matter if they have a big inning and go up three runs. Luke Maley had a big two-run homer there to give ’em a four-run lead and our offense responded right back, so it was just all-around great performance.”