Slugger credits milestone homer to adjusted approach at plate
By Matthew Martell
NEW YORK -- Right fielder Aaron Judge was probably the last Yankees batter who pitcher Andrew Triggs wanted to face with the bases loaded in the third inning and the Athletics holding a 2-1 lead.
Judge ripped a 2-1 fastball over the right-center-field fence for his first career grand slam to put the Yankees up by three runs. It was his 16th home run of the season, which tied Mike Trout of the Angels for the Major League lead. The Yankees held on for a 9-5 win.
"It was pretty cool," Judge said. "It was a huge part of the game, and I'm just glad I was able to come through there."
The homer had a 112-mph exit velocity and a launch angle of 20 degrees, according to Statcast™. It was the second-hardest opposite-field homer in the Majors this year and the eighth-hardest dating back to 2015. It traveled a projected 378 feet in 4.1 seconds.
Until Sunday, Judge hadn't hit a home run since the Yankees put in "The Judge's Chambers" cheering section in the right-field stands before the team's game on May 22. Judge was batting .267 (4-for-15) with no extra-base hits in the first five games of the current homestand, though he still had a .421 on-base percentage.
Judge said his dip in production was a result of getting in front of the ball and hitting some weak grounders to the left side for outs. So on Sunday, he said, he made an adjustment at the plate.
"My main goal today was to try to let the ball travel a bit, get it deep," Judge said. "Because, for two weeks now, I've been rolling over a lot of pitches I should be driving."
The approach worked, as Judge hit the ball to right field three times, including the grand slam, and twice for hits.
In his first at-bat, Judge smoked a liner at A's right fielder Matt Joyce, who reeled it in for the out. It had a 113-mph exit velocity and an 84-percent hit probability, according to Statcast™. He grounded a single to the right side and away from the shifted infield in his final at-bat.
Manager Joe Girardi said a lot of tall baseball players have trouble getting their mechanics down and making adjustments early in their careers, but it's the ability to adapt that has impressed Girardi about Judge, perhaps even more than anything else the rookie, who is 6-foot-7, does on the field.
"When you look at Aaron Judge, I think he's a defensive end playing baseball," said Girardi. "He's just a really good athlete, and it's not every day you see a guy that big playing baseball. But if you can harness your mechanics, you're extremely dangerous."
Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.