During the New York Yankees' three-game series in Toronto to start the week, Aaron Judge achieved the dual goals helping his team win the American League East and hitting his 61st home run.
After tying the AL single-season homer mark set by Roger Maris in 1961, Judge gets his first crack at setting breaking the record at home on Friday night when the Yankees host the Baltimore Orioles.
No team has served up more homers to Judge in his career than the Orioles -- 35 long balls in 84 games. He has nine long balls in 15 games vs. Baltimore this year, also his highest total against any opponent.
Judge went 34 plate appearances spanning seven games without going deep until he hit a go-ahead two-run shot in New York's 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday. Judge's blast came a night after the Yankees (96-59) secured the division title and lifted New York to its ninth win in 10 games.
"Getting a chance to sit at 60 for a while there with The Babe was nice," Judge said, "but getting a chance to now sit at 61 with another Yankee right fielder that hit 61 home runs and (won) MVPs, world (championships), this is pretty cool."
Judge's first crack at No. 62 comes one day shy of the 61st anniversary of Maris breaking Babe Ruth's mark with a blast off the Red Sox's Tracy Stallard in front of 23,154 fans in Boston.
The Yankees had sellout crowds for last weekend's four-game sweep of the Red Sox, and another big crowd is expected Friday.
"Part of the reason guys were so excited is because they feel like they're a big part of it and that's a tribute to him," New York manager Aaron Boone said. "Pretty awesome setting up now for just an amazing atmosphere I'm sure again in the Bronx Friday night."
This season against the improving Orioles, Judge is batting .397 (23-for-58) with 19 RBIs in 15 games.
Besides the possibility of surpassing Maris, Judge is trying to close in on a Triple Crown. Judge is hitting .313, two points behind Minnesota's Luis Arraez entering Friday. The New York star leads the league with 130 RBIs and is batting .418 (38-for-91) during a season-high, 27-game on-base streak.
Baltimore (80-76) surged into the wild-card race by going 33-19 in July and August but has stumbled down the stretch and heads to New York with five losses in six games. The Orioles opened a four-game series at Boston with a 14-8 win on Monday but dropped the next three. Baltimore went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position in a 5-3 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday.
"Things didn't necessarily go our way, but there's a lot of baseball left and we're looking to get back on our feet this next series in New York," Baltimore starting pitcher Mike Baumann said.
Judge's first attempt at getting his 62nd homer comes against Jordan Lyles (11-11, 4.55 ERA), against whom Judge is 5-for-14 with two homers and five RBIs. Judge was 0-for-2 against Lyles entering this season.
Lyles is hoping to reverse some recent struggles as he is 1-2 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts this month. He will be pitching on three days' rest after throwing two innings before exiting due to a lengthy rain delay on Monday in Boston.
Lyles is 2-2 with a 4.34 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) against the Yankees, including a 1-2 mark with a 4.71 ERA in five starts this year.
Domingo German (2-3, 3.30 ERA) will start Friday for the Yankees after allowing three runs in five innings Saturday in a no-decision against Boston. He is 6-0 with a 2.28 ERA in eight career appearances (six starts) against Baltimore.
--Field Level Media