June 15, 2024

NEW YORK — When the New York Yankees clubhouse opens to media after games, it’s customary for that day’s starting pitcher to address reporters before any other players speak.

But Friday night, minutes after the power-hitting Aaron Judge again inked his name into the franchise’s record books, one of the newest Yankees, starter Luke Weaver, was willing to buck postgame tradition.

“Don’t you guys want to talk to Judge?” Weaver said, while shooting a head nod toward his towering teammate who grinned back at him across the room.

Although being facetious, Weaver was willing to defer to Judge because of the slugger’s three-homer performance that sparked a 7-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks that — for at least one night — kept the Bronx Bombers’ anemic season alive a little while longer.

As Judge eventually said of the Yankees’ long-slim postseason chances: “We’re not out of it.”

In his desperate, last-ditch hope for salvaging New York’s season, Judge put on a home run-hitting display that included something that had never previously happened in the franchise’s 121-season history.

Judge’s three-homer game marked the first time a Bronx Bomber had ever recorded multiple such games in a single season.

“[That’s] greatness doing special things,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “You know, those are kind of crazy things that happen, but it’s just a special player.

“Somebody’s got to have that. It’s not surprising, I don’t think to anyone in this room, that it’s Aaron Judge.”

The Yankees right fielder also hit three home runs in a game on Aug. 23, when a similar trio of blasts lifted New York to a 9-1 win over the Washington Nationals.

“It’s nice to be on the right side of that,” said Weaver, an eight-year veteran who made his first career start against the Yankees back in May while with the Cincinnati Reds. New York selected him off waivers from Seattle nearly two weeks ago.

“A historical night, just to see three homers,” Weaver added. “I mean, the guy hits the ball so hard, I’m surprised he doesn’t have a bazillion homers anyway.”

Judge’s first home run came in the third inning after a pair of young players at the bottom of the Yankees lineup, Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza, reached base on a pair of singles.

With one out and both on, Judge turned on a first-pitch sinker, banging it off a billboard just beyond the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field, 420 feet away.

“If guys are on base, you’ve got to move them over or get them in,” Judge said.

Two innings later, Judge deposited homer No. 2 into the stands not far from where his first one landed. The two-run shot gave the Yankees a 6-0 lead.

“Everyone sprinkled in a decent at-bat here and there,” Boone said when asked about the players who got on base ahead of Judge. “Everyone had a little hand in it, and then Judgey took front and center and took over the game.”

The third home run effectively capped the Yankees’ win, as Judge sent a 383-foot liner into the second deck in right field, giving New York its seventh run.

In the middle of Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres’ at-bat moments later, time was briefly called as Judge emerged from the dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

“He just absolutely squared some balls [Friday night],” Boone said. “And it was a weird wind night. A lot of balls getting hung up. So you had to hit some things a certain way, and the way Judgey was hitting them, they stayed in.

“Opposite-field, down the line in the second deck; just four great swings.”

Prior to hitting the homers, Judge added a first-inning base hit to left that he stretched into a double, giving him a 4-for-4 night overall. The offensive showcase came as the outfielder continues making strides in his return from a toe injury that kept him out of 51 games in the middle of the season.

Asked if there was a moment when he believed the night could be a special one, Judge was noncommittal in his answer.

“You just focus on the next at-bat,” Judge said. “Whatever happened good or bad the first couple at-bats, you just kind of put it aside and focus on what the situation is when you come up.”

In addition to his historic second three-homer game of the season, Judge also tied a single-season milestone for home runs hit by major leaguers who’ve missed 50-plus games in that same season.

Judge’s 35 home runs in 2023 match the 35 hit by Rudy York in 1937, who appeared in only 104 games that year for the Detroit Tigers.

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