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Aaron Judge Hits 61st Home Run Tying Roger Maris

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In 1961, Roger Maris of the Yankees mashed 61 home runs, breaking the key league record set by one other Yankees star, Babe Ruth, who had hit 60 in 1927.

Maris’s record was eventually surpassed by three different players, all of whom have been connected to performance-enhancing drugs. But on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Aaron Judge — yet one more Yankee, and an outfielder who has played his entire profession within the era of drug testing — matched Maris’s famous mark, hitting his 61st home run of what has been a spectacular season.

With seven games remaining after Wednesday’s, Judge is tied with Maris for the American League record and has ample opportunity to face alone. A 62nd home run wouldn’t break Barry Bonds’s overall single-season record of 73, which was set within the National League in 2001, but for a lot of it could erase a number of the bad memories of an era by which steroids looked as if it would dominate the sport.

Judge, who’s leading the key leagues in quite a few statistical categories, is having considered one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history. And after going seven games and 31 plate appearances and not using a home run entering Wednesday — seemingly an eternity by Judge’s standards — his size and strength were on full display against the Blue Jays when he finally caught Maris by clobbering a 394-foot, two-run blast to left field in the highest of the seventh inning against the left-hander Tim Mayza.

Judge, like Maris before him, has handled the pressure of the chase, and any momentary slumps, with a quiet smile and an insistence that his priority is winning games for the Yankees.

“He’s totally equipped for all this, and he’s proven to be right in that regard. He’s handled it perfectly,” Manager Aaron Boone said last week, adding that Judge keeps the sport easy. “In a tricky, difficult, not-so-simple game sometimes it’s essential to maintain it easy, and he does an incredible job of that.”

Judge, who may win his first A.L. Most Helpful Player Award this 12 months after ending because the runner-up as a rookie in 2017, is threatening the records books in additional ways than hitting balls over the fence. Entering Wednesday, he was leading within the A.L. in batting average (.314), and he led in home runs (after all) and runs batted in (128). Should he finish the regular season still leading all three categories, he would claim the primary triple crown since Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers did it in 2012 and only the second since 1967.

Judge, 30, hasn’t just been one of the best hitter in baseball this season, the margin between him and his peers is substantial.

The player with the subsequent most home runs within the majors entering Wednesday? Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber with 42. The player with the subsequent best on-base plus slugging percentage after Judge’s 1.119? Houston’s Yordan Alvarez with a 1.021. The position players with the subsequent highest wins above substitute after Judge’s 10.9? Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt of the St. Louis Cardinals, with 7.1 each, in accordance with Fangraphs.

By reaching the 60-home run plateau alone, Judge entered rarefied air in baseball. Only six players in history have hit that many in a season, and three of them — Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Bonds — have been connected in various ways to the usage of performance-enhancers. While their statistics remain in baseball’s record books, their accomplishments are widely viewed with skepticism.

A wave of 50-homer seasons within the Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s slowed with the implementation of Major League Baseball’s drug testing program in 2004, but Judge, with a relentless approach on the plate and no shortage of power in his 6-foot-7, 282-pound frame, quickly established that he could reach that level when he hit 52 home runs as a rookie in 2017. Injuries suppressed his totals within the seasons that followed, but he hit 39 home runs last 12 months while setting a latest profession high in batting average — .287 — helping set the stage for his breakout 2022 season.

Entering Wednesday, Judge had indeed broken out, homering every 9.13 at-bats, the Twelfth-highest rate in baseball history. In 1961, Maris had averaged a house run every 9.67 at-bats.

For the remainder of the regular season, Judge, known for his reserve with the news media, will remain the middle of sport’s attention. His eye-popping statistics will do a lot of the talking for him.

Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.

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