NEW YORK – From one MVP to another — take that!
Aaron Judge robbed Shohei Ohtani of a home run with a spectacular catch Wednesday night, leaping above the center-field fence at Yankee Stadium to keep the ball in play with his glove before snatching it in his bare hand on the way down.
“If I was a good outfielder I would have caught in on the first try,” Judge cracked, drawing laughs. “A juggling act there, but we made the play. It’s tough kind of timing those ones up.”
With one out in the top of the first inning, Ohtani sent a high fly to deep center against New York Yankees rookie pitcher Jhony Brito. The 6-foot-7 Judge went back to the wall and jumped, a little to the right of the 408-foot sign in front of Monument Park.
The ball hit the heel of Judge's glove well above the fence and caromed back toward the warning track. As he landed on his feet, Judge stuck out his right hand and made the grab — a snapshot play headed for the highlight reels in this three-game series between the Angels and Yankees featuring several of baseball’s biggest stars.
“I don’t know how that ball didn’t get out," said Los Angeles slugger Mike Trout.
Judge paused a moment and smiled wide as he tossed the ball in.
“I was just trying to scratch and claw and bring that back into the park,” he said. “Doesn't happen too often with a guy like that. We got lucky on that one.”
To top it off, Judge launched a two-run shot into the left-center bullpen in the bottom of the first off Angels starter Griffin Canning for his sixth homer this season. The slugger hit 62 last year, breaking the American League record.
Judge also prevented the go-ahead run from scoring with a diving catch in right-center in the eighth, and the Yankees won 3-2 in 10 innings on Gleyber Torres' sacrifice fly.
“He's a game changer on both sides of the ball. That’s why he’s an MVP. Should have more than one if you want my honest opinion on that one,” said Angels manager Phil Nevin, a former Yankees coach. "Love him, but not so much right now.”
In the series opener Tuesday night, Ohtani hit a two-run homer into the Yankees' bullpen in right-center in the first inning, sending the Angels on their way to a 5-2 victory.
It was the fourth career home run at Yankee Stadium for Ohtani, the two-way superstar who won the 2021 AL MVP award before finishing runner-up to Judge last year.
“You want to play against the best,” Judge said. “That's what it's all about.”