In the seventh inning of the Yankees’ 2-1 win over the Angels Friday night at the Stadium, Los Angeles catcher Martin Maldonado slapped a line drive into the right-field corner. Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge meandered over to the ball, never sprinting, never rushing, looking surprisingly calm and nonchalant given the situation.
“It kind of seemed like he was just relaxed,” center fielder Aaron Hicks said.
“I almost thought he just was conceding the double,” manager Aaron Boone said.
“Pretty much flat-footed over there in that corner,” left fielder Brett Gardner said.
Judge, though, had fooled everyone. He fielded the ball, turned his shoulder, hopped twice on his back foot and fired a laser to second base. The ball landed directly in Didi Gregorius’ glove, which was hovering over the bag, milliseconds before Maldonado slid in feet-first. It was a perfect throw and served as the putout for the second out of the inning.
“Special,” Gardner said.
That was the second of two outstanding outfield assists from Judge in the game. In the bottom of the third inning, with Kole Calhoun on second base, Justin Upton singled on a low line drive to right field. Again, Judge stayed composed. He fielded, crow-hopped and delivered a missile to Gary Sanchez at the plate, beating Calhoun by a step to preserve what was then a 1-0 Yankee lead.
“That’s about as good as it gets right there,” Boone said. “When he first let go, I’m thinking, ‘Okay, he’s going with the long hop’ because it was so low. And that thing just carried right through, and Gary finished it off nicely.”
The assist was clocked at 100.5 miles-per-hour by MLB.com’s Statcast, the fastest recording for a position-player throw this season.
“About time,” Judge joked after the game, when told of his feat. “I’ve been trying to hit 100. I’m glad I broke it. I think I got 99 last year. …My day was made.”
Boone could only laugh with glee when he was asked about Judge’s defense after the game.