Every time Aaron Judge steps to the plate, the cell phones go up, as if the crowd expects him to homer on demand.
Fans have anticipated Judge's 61st homer for three games, but they still left happy after each of those contest because his team, the New York Yankees, won.
On Saturday afternoon,the Yankees and Judge will again oppose the visiting Boston Red Sox, and the slugger will make his latest attempt to match the American League home run record set by Roger Maris in 1961. New York also will seek a sixth straight win.
Since reaching 60 homers in the ninth inning on Tuesday, Judge is 3-for-10 with four walks to extend his on-base streak to 22 games. On Thursday, he hit a fly ball 404 feet to the warning track in center in the ninth inning off Boston's Matt Barnes. On Friday, Judge hit a fly ball to the track in left in his second at-bat against Rich Hill.
While the fans await Judge's record-tying homer, the Yankees (92-58) are on their best run since the All-Star break. Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres drove in a pair of runs apiece and Jose Trevino got the game-winning hit in the eighth inning of a 5-4 win over Boston on Friday, New York's 13th victory in 17 games.
"He's making good swing decisions," New York manager Aaron Boone said of Judge. "It's going to come. But it is a peek behind just how great a player he is, that when he doesn't hit the ball out of the ballpark, he's still impacting us in a big way -- getting on base, his outfield play, on the bases.
"So, with obviously all the noise around this and the excitement around this understandably, he's still going out there and just putting together good at-bat after good at-bat."
Judge takes an AL-best .315 average into Saturday, just ahead of the .314 mark of Boston's Xander Bogaerts. During his on-base streak, Judge is batting .449 (35-for-78) with 11 homers and 19 RBIs.
"He's one of the best in the game, if not the best," Hill said.
Bogaerts got a day off on Friday after going 0-for-5 on Thursday. In the latest defeat, the Red Sox were unable to score after Alex Verdugo hit a tying homer in the sixth inning. Boston struck out 12 times and dropped to 6-11 in the season series.
Judge will take his next crack at 61 vs. Nick Pivetta (10-11, 4.35 ERA), against whom he is 5-for-11 with two homers.
Pivetta is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in four starts against the Yankees this season, having allowed eight homers in 18 2/3 innings. Judge took him deep for his 32nd homer on July 16 in New York and his 56th homer on Sept. 13 in Boston.
Pivetta is 0-3 with an 8.78 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) against the Yankees and is 0-3 with an 11.57 in three career starts in New York.
Overall, Pivetta is 2-6 with a 5.83 ERA in his past 14 starts. However, he earned a win on Sunday when he allowed three runs in five innings of a 13-3 victory over the visiting Kansas City Royals.
Domingo German (2-3, 3.12 ERA), who has pitched 2 2/3 innings in two appearances since Sept. 7, will start for the Yankees on Saturday.
German is 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 11 career appearances (nine starts) against the Red Sox, whom he held to one run on five hits in six innings in a no-decision on Aug. 12 at Boston.
--Field Level Media