Just when you thought New York Yankees’ right fielder Aaron Judge‘s rookie season couldn’t get any better, he started to build a postseason resume.
There is very little the New York Yankees‘ American League MVP candidate didn’t experience in the 2017 regular season.
Aaron Judge’s first half established himself as a superstar in the sport. His performance in the Home Run Derby tested the limits of a big league ballpark. Although he was hit with a post-All-Star slump that gave his MVP chances a hit, he picked it up in September to close out the year with 52 home runs — a new rookie record.
One of the most prominent things the 25-year-old experienced, however, was the in-season comparisons to Derek Jeter. Sure, manager Joe Girardi was simply implying that Judge’s character recalls The Captain’s presence in the clubhouse, but his first taste of the postseason could bring legitimacy to the association.
After all, you can’t compare to Derek Jeter without having a flair for the dramatic when it comes to October play. And in his postseason debut, Aaron Judge didn’t disappoint.
Looking for a spark down 3-0 in the first inning of the American League Wild Card Game after Luis Severino turned in a dud, Judge lifted a soft liner in his first postseason at-bat for a base hit off Ervin Santana to put runners on the corners with no outs.
The gritty battle with the Twins’ ace set up Didi Gregorius, who ended up ripping a game-tying, three-run homer two batters later.
It was Judge’s third at-bat of the evening, however, that erupted the rowdy Bronx crowd and showed the baseball world that no stage is too big for the monstrous slugger.
Facing Jose Barrios in the bottom of the fourth, Judge scorched a frozen rope that carried into the first row of the stands in left at an exit velocity of 108.1 MPH.
The blast extended the Yankees’ lead to three runs and drew loud “MVP” chants from the crowd as he re-entered the dugout after rounding the basepaths.
ICYMI: Aaron Judge cranks a missile over the LF wall to help the Yanks advance to the ALDS pic.twitter.com/Cy9aFPvqoB
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 4, 2017
Judge is now the eighth player in Yankees’ history to homer in his first postseason at-bat and the first to do so since Rondell White drilled one off Jarrod Washburn in Game 1 of the 2002 ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim.
He also finished his night with two RBI’s, making him the 10th player in franchise history to drive in a pair of runs in their October debut. The last to do so was Robinson Cano in 2005, the list features names like Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard and Bernie Williams.
No, he wasn’t the story of the do-or-die win on Tuesday night — that title belongs to David Robertson and the impeccable Yankees’ bullpen — but New York wouldn’t have sniffed the chance to win their first postseason game since 2012 without their 6-foot-7 rookie.
The 2017 AL Wild Card showed more than Judge merely carrying a red-hot tail-end to the regular season into the playoffs. It’s more than “The Judge’s Chambers,” the foam gavels, the hype and MVP chants.
It symbolizes the inauguration of what very well could be a long range of annual postseason appearances that he will have an opportunity to thrive in. That’s how pinstripes are earned. And October is all that matters.