Aaron Judge gets better of Shohei Ohtani, proves his MVP mettle

Aaron Judge leading the Yankees team to the dugout after an excellent performance against Philadelphia on Apr 5, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
John Allen
Thursday April 20, 2023

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There was some discontent when Aaron Judge beat Shohei Ohtani in November 2022 to win the AL MVP award. On Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees captain put that to rest with a performance that got better of the Angels’ two-way star.

The Yankees were able to tie the series with a walk-off victory against Los Angeles thanks in large part to the stellar defensive play of Aaron Judge, who belted his sixth home run of the season, a two-run shot, in the first inning and made two spectacular, run-saving defensive plays in the bottom of the inning.

The tightly contested game witnessed great defensive plays by both teams. The 2022 AL MVP prevented the 2021 AL MVP from hitting a home run in the first inning. A few minutes later, Aaron Judge hit a two-run homer of his own.

Aaron Judge stopped Ohtani

Aaron Judge robbed Ohtani of a potential home run with a juggling catch right before he hit a two-run homer. Though Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly in the 10th inning helped the New York Yankees win the game, their captain’s heroics overshadowed everything.

Ohtani, who was up second, hit a high fly ball to deep center field, which got things off to a very exciting start. Aaron Judge went back to the wall and jumped, just to the right of the 408-foot sign in front of Monument Park to get hold of it in a thrilling attempt.

The 6-foot-7-inch outfielder reached his glove over the wall and felt the ball hit the heel of his glove. Aaron Judge grabbed the ball with his bare hand as it got out of his glove to drop on his chest then slumped to the wall as the crowd chanted “M-V-P!” M-V-P!”

Far over the fence, the ball struck the heel of Aaron Judge’s glove before bouncing back toward the warning track. But the Yankees captain made the grab as he landed on his feet after keeping the ball in the park. This momentous play is sure to make the highlight reels.

Aaron Judge’s effort and reaction at that moment will be shown over and over again because it involved the last two AL MVPs and was so hard to catch.

“I was just trying to scratch and claw and get that back in the park,” Aaron Judge said of a drive that was estimated at 411 feet, three feet farther than the 408 feet listed in the deepest center field.

Aaron Judge stopped for a moment and then threw the ball in with a big smile on his face.

“I don’t know how that ball didn’t get out,” Trout said. “Obviously, he changed the whole game.”

Later, Aaron Judge made another great catch. With two outs in the eighth inning, Brandon Drury hit a ball to right center, but the Yankees captain made a diving catch to save a run.

“You want to play against the best,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Aaron Judge’s bat did the trick too

The game also saw Aaron Judge hitting his sixth home run of the season, a two-run shot to left-center off Griffin Canning in the bottom of the first. Last year, the batter hit 62 home runs, which was an American League record. In the bottom of the first inning, after Anthony Volpe hit a single, he hit the sure thing to left field to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

In the 10th, Aaron Judge intentionally walked with one out and a runner at second. Then, Matt Moore hit Anthony Rizzo with a breaking ball to load the bases. The power hitter went 1-3 and walked twice to end the game.

Aaron Judge accepted his 2022 AL Silver Slugger Award before the game. He had a historic season with an AL record for most home runs and came close to winning the Triple Crown.

“It’s not as fun on the other side,” said Angels’ coach Phil Nevin, who knew Aaron Judge better when he was in New Ork for four years as their third base coach. “He’s a game-changer on both sides of the ball.”

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