NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Aaron Judge is quite familiar with those big numbers hovering over the left-field stands at Yankee Stadium. After all, a couple of his moonshots this season have visited that area of the ballpark, where Yankees greats are honored.
On the eve of the Yankees’ American League wild-card game against the Minnesota Twins, Judge said he also knows those men are considered icons today because of what they accomplished in the postseason.
Now, after a jaw-dropping 52-homer rookie season, it’s Judge’s turn to show what he can do in October.
“This is what it’s all about,” the slugger told reporters Monday. “This is where a lot of those numbers that are hanging out there in left field, this is where they made a name for themselves, in the postseason.”
The Yankees say they like their chances against the surprising Twins for a number of reasons.
For starters, they’re at home — where they won an AL-leading 51 games this year — and they enter the playoffs on a hot streak, having won 20 of their last 28.
“It’s not necessarily the best team in the end that’s standing, it’s the team that’s playing the best at the right time,” left fielder Brett Gardner said. “I feel like we’ve been playing good baseball, and I expect to play well.”
The Bronx Bombers also are a confident bunch because they know they have Luis Severino on their side. The right-hander, who is enjoying a breakout season, will take the mound for New York. He was 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA during the regular season.
“He’s been pretty darn good this year,” Gardner said. “One of the top two or three right-handed starters in the game this year. He’s a guy we love being behind.”
Added Judge: “He’s been dominant. He’s attacking hitters. He’s always getting in the good counts. Every time I look up there, it’s always 0-1, 0-2. He’s never falling behind a lot of hitters. When you’ve got his repertoire and his stuff and you’re getting ahead of guys like that, good things will happen.”
The Yankees, who were the victims of a quick playoff exit after losing the 2015 AL wild-card game at home to the Astros, are stressing normalcy. If they don’t get too wrapped up in the magnitude of the moment, they believe they should be all right.
“We’re just going to try to treat it like we have the whole season coming here,” Judge said. “We played well at home. I think once Severy throws that first pitch and we get the game rolling, it will all be the same. I think the buildup before the game is nerve-racking, but once we step out on the field, it’s the same game we’ve been playing since we were little kids.”