It’s 62 or letdown from here on out in Aaron Judge’s HR chase

This might be grossly unfair. It probably is. But on a night when Aaron Judge failed to make history by sending home run No. 62 into the Bronx night and over a Yankee Stadium wall, well, this was the very definition of a letdown.

History by appointment is just not the way things work.

The 2-1 loss to Baltimore on Friday night had importance to individual Yankees testing their health or effectiveness in advance of the hierarchy setting a playoff roster — specifically, DJ LeMahieu, Zack Britton, Domingo German and Aroldis Chapman — and to an Orioles team facing a tragic number of one for elimination from the wild-card race.

But for the overwhelming majority of folks in the stadium across 161st Street from the old and storied place in which Babe Ruth hit No. 60 in 1927 and Roger Maris cracked No. 61 in 1961, everything other than a Judge at-bat was pure filler. Everything else became a distraction. That is why the fast-forward button was invented.

Judge, of course, had gone the final five games of the last homestand without a home run after hitting No. 60 on Sept. 20, then went the first two games in Toronto without one before tying The Rajah’s record on Wednesday.

So it was time. The ritual of the congregation rising from its pews and then turning reverent upon each pitch was renewed. Or, as manager Aaron Boone observed, “People don’t want to miss out on a chance to really drink in history.”

Aaron Judge walks in the sixth inning during the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the Orioles.
Aaron Judge walks in the sixth inning during the Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Orioles.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

On Friday, Judge could not stir the drink. No, he did not stir it badly, of course not, in going 1-for-2 with a couple of bases-on-balls on a night in which starting pitcher Jordan Lyles fed Judge a heaping dose of off-speed pitches that registered between 79 mph and 91 mph on the radar gun over three plate appearances before reliever Felix Bautista walked him intentionally with a man on second base in the eighth inning after missing with three 100 mph four-seamers.

There was a strikeout in the first inning on a 3-2 count. There was a sharp single up the middle in the third on 2-and-2. There was a walk on a full count in the sixth. Each at-bat was followed by a ripple of discontent, even on the single. And then, a massive outpouring of derision following the intentional walk that, in reality, was issued three pitches too late.

Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde may have worn a dunce cap, but not a black hat. Surely he was not a villain. If anything, perhaps Boone shouldn’t have had Isiah Kiner-Falefa steal second with none out before Jose Trevino struck out ahead of Judge.

Wayne and Patty Judge and his wife Samantha Bracksieck stand up as Aaron Judge hits in the eighth inning of the Yankees' loss.
Wayne and Patty Judge and his wife Samantha Bracksieck stand up as Aaron Judge hits in the eighth inning of the Yankees’ loss.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

There was, apparently, a game to be won, even if the Yankees are locked into the AL second seed and even if that could not have mattered less to the gathering of true believers and treasure hunters.

“We’re going to play to win the game,” the manager said, invoking one-time Jets head coach Herm Edwards’ famous declaration. “I considered holding him there, but I also think they were sort of going after [Judge], too.

“Obviously when it got to a 3-0 situation that changed, you have Bautista who’s a reverse split guy, so I mean, what did Herm say, ‘You play to win the game?’


Everything to know about Aaron Judge and his chase for the home run record:


“So … we’re going to do that. We all want to see Judgie do it, [but] we’re always striking that balance.”

Actually, it was a night of pronounced imbalance, when the two-three-four-five hitters in the order behind Judge, namely Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton, respectively, combined to go 0-for-12 with six strikeouts.

It would seem that playing to win the game at this juncture is enhanced by not conspiring to even risk the bat being taken out of Judge’s hands at any time. Not, of course, that the ultimate team player would see anything wrong with that.

Weather permitting, there are six games remaining, two more this weekend in the friendly confines before a four-game set to close it out at Texas. When and if Judge gets there, intentional walks and managerial decisions for and against will become pimples on the landscape of history.

Plus, by batting Judge in the leadoff position over the last 18 games, Boone has enabled the co-holder of the AL record to accumulate as many at-bats as possible. The manager has been a help, hardly a hindrance.

But maybe not on in this one, maybe not in Game 156.

Because on this Home Run or Nothing Night for the paying customers among the sellout 47,583 in the park, it became a show about nothing.

The Mighty Judge had not struck No. 62.