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Mike Lupica: Aaron Judge’s 59th home run caps off spectacular day of New York sports

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Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees runs the bases on his home run in the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on September 18, 2022, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Aaron Judge (99) of the New York Yankees runs the bases on his home run in the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on September 18, 2022, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (John Fisher/Getty Images/TNS)

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The day when Aaron Judge arrived at the threshold of 60, got to a home run place in New York sports history with No. 59 that has only ever been matched by two hitters — Babe Ruth, Roger Maris — made him the headliner on Sunday. The biggest story. Just not the only story. Even making more history the way he did, standing taller than ever over the rest of the home run crowd the way he has all season, even on the day when No. 99 got to 59, he was only a part of one of the great days we have had in New York sports in a very long time.

“I think we had a day like this a few years ago,” a friend of mine who works in sports said late Sunday afternoon, “but for the life of me I can’t remember when it was.”

Because while Judge was hitting two more against the Brewers the Giants were going to 2-0 at MetLife Stadium against the Carolina Panthers. And it wasn’t even the biggest moment in pro football in New York and Jersey, because all the Jets were doing in Cleveland was coming all the way back from 30-17 with 1:55 to go against the Browns at the end. They sure did come all the way back. Joe Willie Flacco (307 passing yards, four touchdown passes) threw two touchdown passes in 60 seconds of game time, with a recovered onside kick in the middle.

The way the Giants came back on the road to beat the Titans last Sunday was one of the best days they’ve had in a long time. The way the Jets came back on the road in Cleveland was one of the truly great football days they’ve had in a long time. After all the heartbreak Sundays over the past several years for the Jets, they finally had one of these crazy endings go their way.

About an hour after that, when Trevor May got the Mets their 20th strikeout of the day against the Pirates, the Mets had stayed ahead of the Braves with a 7-3 victory. It wasn’t easy, because hardly anything ever is for Buck Showalter’s Mets, even against friends from low places like the Pirates. This was an afternoon at Citi Field when first the Pirates came back from 0-3 to tie the game against Jacob deGrom, doing that after deGrom had struck out 13 in the first five innings. But then the Mets scored four in the eighth to get the sweep.

The Yankees didn’t get the best game out of their ace, Gerrit Cole. But they came from 1-4 down then hung on for dear life against the Brewers, avoiding the sweep in Milwaukee. The Mets didn’t ever lose the lead, even after Oneil Cruz took deGrom over the right field wall for a 3-run homer. So the Mets held their slim lead against the Braves.

For this one pretty perfect September afternoon, the Yankees and Mets and Jets and Giants made everybody around here feel as if New York was exactly what we still want it to be, which means the capital of sports.

Two first-place baseball teams. An improbable comeback for the Jets even after some of their most loyal fans had given up on them when they were 13 down after the two-minute warning. Then there is this 2-0 start for the Giants. One-point win over the Titans. Three-point win over the Panthers. Another home game next week against the Cowboys and in chance to — improbably — go to 3-0 under rookie coach Brian Daboll, who continues to make some entrance, doesn’t he?

Again: The biggest news, even on a football day like this, was the big man, No. 99, and what he was doing against the Brewers, hitting two more out of sight, the last one measuring 443 feet. Getting to No. 59 in his 146th game. And by the way? We’re not measuring him against McGwire and Sosa and Bonds, at least not around here, thrilling to the chase to get to 60 and beyond. Around here, we’re measuring him against the magic of No. 60, and the standard Babe Ruth set when he was really inventing the home run in major league baseball back in the 1920s; when he was the one who was head and shoulders above everybody else the way Judge is this season.

No. We’re measuring Aaron Judge against the magic of the home run chase at Ruth that Maris and Mantle made in ‘61, 61 years ago, when Roger Maris finally tied Ruth and then broke his record against Tracy Stallard of the Red Sox at the old Stadium. It was Oct. 1 at the old Stadium, and a fan named Sal Durante caught that home run ball and, who knows, maybe Judge can get to 61 or 62 next weekend when the ‘22 Red Sox come to town.

Maybe next weekend might feel as little bit like this weekend finally did in New York sports. Maybe we’ll get another day like we got on Sunday. Judge and the Yankees and the Mets. Giants winning again and the Jets winning the way they did, what felt like a minor football miracle, except that it’s the Jets, so it felt like much more than that. On a lot of days, the Jets would have been the talk of the town. And felt like kings of New York. Not on this day.

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Aaron Judge fell a few feet short of a record-tying 61st homer, hitting a 404-foot drive caught just in front of the center field wall, and the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Josh Donaldson’s 10th-inning single to clinch their sixth straight playoff berth. Judge had walked three times and struck out once before he came to the plate with the score tied 4-4 in the ninth. He drove a fastball from Matt Barnes just to the right of straightaway center. The ball left the bat at 113 mph, and fans waited in anticipation as Judge jogged toward first base. But they groaned in unison as Kiké Hernández made the catch a step in front of the fence.

Aaron Judge hit his 60th home run and Giancarlo Stanton followed minutes later with a game-ending grand slam, completing the New York Yankees’ stunning five-run, ninth-inning rally to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-8. Judge moved within one of Roger Maris’ American League record when he turned on a sinker from right-hander Wil Crowe and drove it 430 feet into the left-field bleachers, pulling New York within 8-5. Judge matched the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit for the 1927 Yankees to set a big league record that stood for 34 years.

Aaron Judge disappointed fans by staying stuck at 60 homers but doubled twice and scored on Oswaldo Cabrera’s first-inning grand slam that started the New York Yankees to a 14-2 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates. A day after hitting home run No. 60 to spark a stunning five-run, ninth-inning rally capped by Giancarlo Stanton’s game-ending slam, Judge doubled on the first pitch to him in the first and fifth innings. Judge leads the AL in average, home runs and RBIs, in position to become the first Triple Crown winner in a decade. Cabrera and Gleyber Torres had five RBIs each.

The young Cleveland Guardians finished what they started. Rookie Steven Kwan hit a grand slam and drove in a career-high five runs as the Guardians beat the Texas Rangers 10-4 to clinch the AL Central. Baseball's youngest team, the Guardians have won seven straight and gone 18-3 since being tied for first on Sept. 4. It's Cleveland's first division title since 2018 and it came in the team's first season after changing its name from Indians to Guardians. Manager Terry Francona was in the middle of a chaotic celebration in the clubhouse. It was a personal triumph for the 63-year-old who battled serious health problems the past two years.

Travis d’Arnaud broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, Dansby Swanson went deep in the eighth, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 and clinched a playoff berth. The defending World Series champion Braves secured their trip to the postseason when Milwaukee lost to the New York Mets 7-5 less than 30 minutes later. Atlanta (93-55) is also vying for its fifth consecutive division title, but remained in second place, one game behind the Mets in the NL East. Swanson added his 21st homer in the eighth off Kyle Finnegan. The Braves have won 10 straight games at home, outscoring opponents 47-15 over this stretch.

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