New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday with a chance to simplify the playoff picture in the American League.
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Facing Tampa Bay Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge with runners on second and third in a scoreless game, Judge hit a grounder up the middle that bounced off the mound and allowed Tyler Wade to cross home plate. The victory — combined with the Boston Red Sox’s comeback win over the Washington Nationals — allowed the two fierce rivals to claim the AL’s wild-card spots by a single game over the Toronto Blue Jays.
All Rise to the Occasion. pic.twitter.com/EOtbLMglep
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 3, 2021
It is the Yankees’ fifth consecutive trip to the postseason.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Judge said on the field after the game. “This is just the first step. Excited to get it done in front of these fans here. This is awesome, awesome.”
After finishing with identical 92-70 records, the historic franchises meet at Fenway Park on Tuesday night with a trip to the ALDS on the line.
The cards have been dealt. The stage is set. #SquadUp pic.twitter.com/Vokz1bWMot
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 4, 2021
The first walk-off hit of Judge’s career capped an extremely productive 2021 regular season for the 29-year-old Judge, who missed significant time due to injuries the past three years. Judge’s 148 games played, 39 home runs and 98 RBIs were the most he’s recorded since his breakout Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017. He also set new career highs with 158 hits and a .287 batting average, earning his third invitation to the All-Star Game in the process.
And all season, as he has done his entire MLB career, Judge has honored the Lord. As one of the game’s most powerful hitters, Judge often finds himself jogging around the bases after hitting yet another home run. His home-run trot typically includes him pointing to the sky. Judge was asked during his rookie season who he was thinking of when he pointed upward.
“The Lord,” Judge told the assembled media. “He put me in this position, blessed me with so many opportunities in my life. I just try to take a quick moment just to kind of thank Him. I just got a chance to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium. That’s something not too many people can say they’ve done. It’s a blessing every time I step on that field and get that opportunity.”
God has been part of Judge’s story from the very beginning. He and his older brother, John, were adopted by Wayne and Patty Judge on the second day of Aaron’s life.
“I feel they kind of picked me,” Judge told The New York Post in 2015. “I feel that God was the one that matched us together.”
His faith is also displayed on his Twitter and Instagram profiles. “Christian” is the first word included in his bio on both, and his Twitter banner displays 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
“It’s one of my favorite Bible verses,” Judge said in December 2019. “I try to live my life by it, and always trust the Man Above and what He’s got in store for us. We never know what’s around the corner, but if we have faith in Him, He will lead us in the right direction.”
After leading his team in nearly every offensive category this season, Judge has led the Yankees back to the postseason. They own the most World Series titles in history (27), but haven’t won one since 2009. First pitch on Tuesday in Boston is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
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