Yankees-Pirates games at the end of September shouldn’t feel like this. For the most part, they wouldn’t really care about anything.
But when the gates opened Wednesday night and fans began flocking to the outfield seats—which was indeed where they tended to go—the sky over Yankee Stadium buzzed with anticipation. Aaron Judge would take the lead for the Yankees in just over 90 minutes.
This would be his first chance at history.
Judge hit his 60th homerun of the season in the ninth inning on Tuesday-evening, sparking a Yankees rally that ended in Giancarlo Stanton’s walk-off grand slam.
Wednesday against righthanded Roansy Contreras, a rookie pitcher who has never faced Judge before, would be his first chance to match Roger Maris’ American League record of 61.
For a club that likes to play out its history, Wednesday carried the weight of the moment. Aaron Boone’s pregame press conference, usually a forgettable affair, lasted over 17 minutes. At one point, Boone was asked what he tells his wife and children about Judge.
Everything you need to know about Aaron Judge and his pursuit of the home run record:
Not much, was the answer.
The Yankees came in with a chance to secure a place in the playoffs and, while that was a bit of a formality, in normal circumstances it would have carried the stories of the day. Instead, it was sent to an afterthought.
You had the feeling that there would only be one event that champagne would be worthy of. And it wasn’t a guarantee for baseball in October.