Needless to say, the No. 61 is practically sacred around Yankee Stadium. Roger Maris’ American League single-season home run record, set in 1961, endured for 61 years until Aaron Judge caught a sinker thrown by Toronto Blue Jays lefty Tim Mayza and pulled it over the left-field fence Wednesday night to tie Maris, who had family in the building.
Now, Judge has seven remaining Yankees games to try to hit one more home run to pull ahead of Maris.
Before Judge’s historic blast, he had gone 32 at-bats without hitting a home run, his second-longest drought of the season. Still, optimism remained high. At BetMGM, 99% of the bets on Judge over/under for Wednesday night were on over 0.5 home runs. Those tickets cashed at odds of +250.
The action remains robust on Judge to set the record outright, with BetMGM trader Christian Cipollini saying, “Judge’s home run market has been one of our most popular MLB markets of all time. We expect to continue to see this action until he hits No. 62 and possibly after that if he can extend the AL home run record.”
Cipollini added that the public remains heavily invested in the over.
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Handicapping Judge’s upcoming weekend
The Yankees play three more games at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles starting Friday night, then end the season with four games next week in Arlington, Texas. Judge has hit 30 home runs at Yankee Stadium and 31 on the road.
Setting the mark at Yankee Stadium would give the highlight the perfect backdrop for posterity, and Roger Maris Jr. told reporters in Toronto he thinks Judge will do it in the Bronx this weekend.
“It’s where I want it to happen,” Maris said. “The city of New York deserves it. The fans deserve it. It will be great for baseball if it happens in New York.”
It certainly seems probable given that Judge has, on average, homered once every 9.05 at-bats. And in 15 games against Baltimore this season, Judge has nine home runs, his most against any team. Now, let’s go game by game:
Friday, Sept. 30 vs. Baltimore Orioles (7:05 p.m. ET)
Such small sample sizes can be misleading, but in 14 career at-bats against Baltimore starter Jordan Lyles, Judge has five hits, including a pair of home runs. There is a better reason to hammer the over in this one: Lyles is a fly ball pitcher, a dangerous way to operate when approaching someone with Judge’s power. Only 15 qualified major league pitchers have a higher fly ball rate than Lyles’ 40.1%, and only 19 pitchers have a higher HR/fly ball rate than Lyles’ 11.3%. If he challenges Judge at all, Lyles could get burned in a historical way.
Saturday, Oct. 1 vs. Baltimore Orioles (1:05 p.m. ET)
Judge has never faced 30-year-old right-hander Austin Voth, but Voth has an even higher fly ball rate than Lyles at 41.5% and his 2.77 ERA is a bit misleading, given that he has a mediocre hard-hit rate that ranks in the 51st percentile. Voth has a high-spin curveball that he’ll probably look to get Judge to swing over, but if he hangs one or tries to sneak a fastball by him, it could set off fireworks in the South Bronx.
Sunday, Oct. 2 vs. Baltimore Orioles (12:35 p.m. ET)
Rookie right-hander Kyle Bradish has never faced Judge, who was not in the lineup on May 16 when the Yankees beat Bradish and the Orioles 6-2.
Bradish has a tendency to keep the ball on the ground, with a 45.8% ground ball rate, but he has been more susceptible to the long ball than he was in the minor leagues, which is in no way surprising. Bradish has allowed 1.36 homers per nine innings this year. Only eight qualified major league pitchers have been bitten by the long ball more regularly.
The Baltimore bullpen is improved in large part because it has cut down on home runs allowed. Only 10 major league bullpens have been stingier with long balls. Still, if Judge gets pitches to hit this weekend, it’s a good bet he’ll make history. Picking the right night to join in the celebration by placing a winning wager will only add to the fun.
Photo: Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY