NEW YORK – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is noticing a playoff atmosphere at Yankee Stadium today, with reporters storming the Bronx and temperatures dipping in the 60s. Except the fuss is over Aaron Judge and his attempt tonight to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record.
“What an awesome experience for some of these rookies that we have up here,” Hyde said. “This is what it feels like with the amount of media, amount of people on the field, kind of the October air a little bit right now. It’s a special time to be playing baseball, and for our young guys to be able to experience this type of attention and what it feels like, I think it’s going to be awesome for them going forward.”
The crowd will fall silent as Judge steps to the plate. Phones raised to capture the moment. The collective breath held.
“That will be a first for me,” Hyde said. “I haven’t seen a potential milestone like this. Been a part of a bunch of no-hitters and things like that, which, the place can get quiet and nervous. Some postseason series that are super cool. But not an individual accomplishment like this. I’ve never been a part of anything like this.
“I’m hoping that he waits until next series, but it’s going to be a great environment.”
Hyde doesn’t know how he’s going to react if Judge hits No. 62 against his club. He can appreciate the moment, but how much emotion is allowable when one of his pitchers is the victim?
“You want to applaud and congratulate someone that does something so special and something you’ve never seen before,” he said. “I don’t know. Maybe the score will dictate how my reaction will be. I don’t know what it’s going to be, honestly. But like I said, let’s wait until next series and I can, hopefully, cheer from watching him on TV.
“I just think this guy is having an incredible year. He’s an unbelievable player. I hope he can wait until next series, but it’s a cool moment. This guy is so special and so good that it’s fun to see baseball fans and sports fans in general, and the city of New York, be able to watch him play. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player.”
Asked what’s impressed him the most about Judge, Hyde said he could list 61 reasons. The home runs always come up first. But also ...
“Everything,” Hyde said. “This guy’s a total package player and he’s 6-7 and whatever he is, but great outfielder. Unbelievably, he can play center field the way he does. And just, obviously, the presence at the plate. He can win you a game by himself, the power’s the most I’ve ever seen. The makeup, too. Just how impressive he is as a person, as a guy. How he’s handled this, handled New York City, it’s been unbelievable.
“I don’t have enough compliments for the guy.”
Facing the Yankees on Sept. 30-Oct. 2 left the Orioles vulnerable to being on the wrong end of an historical moment. Judge tied the record Wednesday in Toronto.
“I was hoping he’d get hot, but you never know what’s going to happen,” Hyde said. “I, obviously, saw the schedule and knew that we were going to be playing them during this time. I was watching the Blue Jays series to see how that went, and he got one. Good for him. And now he’s got the Orioles.”
Jordan Lyles is working on short rest tonight, but only because he was limited to two innings Monday night before a long rain delay. Austin Voth was pushed back to Saturday.
“We made that decision after his start that got cut short in Boston,” Hyde said. “It’s more, honestly, about Austin Voth and giving Voth an extra day just because of the amount of innings and starts that he hasn’t had before. I mean, it’s nice to have veteran guys on the mound, and an atmosphere like this, you don’t know how young guys are going to react, respond. So, to put Jordan on the mound in this kind of cool environment, I think that’s good.”
The Orioles need to run the table and get some help to grab the last wild card, with the magic number for elimination down to one. They need a victory to guarantee a non-losing season.
Tonight is important to them. The series is important. The three games next week against the Blue Jays, as well.
It isn’t just about Judge.
“We’re still in it with six games left in the season, and nobody thought that way from November to March,” Hyde said. “We never heard that there was any sort of chance that this team would have a chance to make the postseason, and to be able to play the way we have and put ourselves in position, I’m really proud of our players and our coaches and everybody involved.
“I think the city of Baltimore and a lot of people enjoyed watching our team play this year. After three years of really hard-to-watch baseball, and I saw it, also, to have our guys play the way they have this year and stay competitive and win and put themselves in the conversation for the postseason, these guys deserve a lot of credit.”
The Orioles announced their minor league award winners today.
Infielder Jordan Westburg was chosen as the organization’s Player of the Year and right-hander Ryan Watson is the Pitcher of the Year.
High-A Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado receives the Player Development Award and area scout Scott Walter is the Scout of the Year.
The recipients will be honored Tuesday at Camden Yards during an on-field ceremony.
Steve Melewski will be filing a story later today on MASNsports.com.