It was only a matter of time until the new dimensions in Oriole Park at Camden Yards had a direct impact on the Yankees.
As it turns out, during New York’s second trip to Baltimore this season, a deeper — and taller — wall in left field kept center fielder Aaron Judge from checking off a new career milestone.
Judge smacked a deep fly ball near the top of the fence in left in his first at-bat on Tuesday night, a drive that caromed off a wall that was moved back 26.5 feet this past winter. The RBI double gave New York an early lead — in a game they went on to win, 5-4 — but it stayed in the yard. It would’ve been a long ball in every other Major League ballpark, per Statcast.
Last year, the 399-foot blast off right-hander Spenser Watkins would’ve landed several rows deep in the left-field seats at Camden Yards. On Tuesday night, it was the difference in Judge’s pursuit of his first career three-homer game.
The slugger went yard in each of his next two at-bats, part of a 4-for-5 performance with three RBI. His solo shot in the third (also off Watkins) soared 410 feet to right center field. Then, his leadoff big fly in the fifth, to center off right-hander Joey Krehbiel, traveled 422 feet.
“I knew it did not have a chance, but I was hoping for good old times’ sake tonight, it might get out,” Judge told reporters after the game. “I learned my lesson and decided to go to the right field after that.”
Judge added a 109.8-mph single to left in the eighth. He’s now hitting .315 (41-for-130) through 34 games this season, producing an OPS of 1,076. With two more home runs, Judge is the first player in Major League Baseball to hit 14 homers this season. No other player has more than 12.
Again, it could’ve been 15 had the Orioles stuck with their same hitter-friendly dimensions, though.
Judge and his manager both did not hide their feelings about the alterations to what was once a right-handed hitter’s paradise.
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“He got almost three, but build-your-own-park got him there,” Aaron Boone said. “It was a special night. He was on the attack early in the counts, got some pitches and left no doubt with some balls. A great night for him, no question. ”
Judge wasn’t thrilled about it either.
“It’s a travesty, man. I’m pretty upset. It looks like a create-a-park now, “he said.” I did not like it, because I always liked coming here and playing here. Hopefully, in a couple of years, they can move it back in. We’ll see. ”
Regardless, Judge continues to produce MVP-caliber numbers through the first few months of the season. And even if he’s leading the league in homers, he still told reporters that he does not feel locked in at the plate.
“It’s just about quality at-bats,” Judge said. “I can not control the outcome. I can not control if I hit a homer or line out at somebody four times. It’s just about me making sure I’m sticking with my plan, swinging at the right pitches, moving a guy over if I need to or driving a guy in if I need to. I’d drive myself crazy if I was searching for results this whole game. ”
One thing Judge, Boone and the Yankees can not complain about is the way this team is playing. New York has now won 20 of their last 23 games. Their 27-9 record on the season, entering play on Wednesday, is the best in baseball by a significant margin.