Both of the Orioles’ pitchers and their manager insisted their plan against Aaron Judge on Saturday was merely a matter of locating pitches as carefully as possible.
Not one of them conceded to pitching around the Yankees slugger, who remained stuck on 61 home runs in his pursuit of breaking Rogers Maris’ American League and franchise record.
Yet watching the game — an 8-0 Yankees win at the Stadium — it looked like, between Baltimore starter Austin Voth and reliever Spenser Watkins, it was clear neither wanted to be that guy, the one who served Judge the pitch he launched out of the park for his record-breaking 62nd home run.
The only place Voth and Watkins didn’t throw pitches on Saturday was onto the subway platforms behind the stadium. Suffice it to say there were not a lot of pitches in the strike zone for Judge to hit as he went 0-for-2 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch and two strikeouts.
Voth conceded after the game that being on the wrong side of history in Judge’s record chase was on his mind.
“Whenever you face a lineup with that type of hitter, there’s one batter that you don’t want to beat you,’’ Voth said. “So, you attack him with nobody on base and if somebody’s and then you’re a little bit more careful.’’
Voth wanted no part of being a footnote to Judge’s history.
“He’s having an awesome season, man, but at the end of the day I’ve got to be the guy that gets him out somehow,’’ Voth said. “I’ve got to find a way — any way possible. Our game plan was mostly to pitch away, which is what you saw today. We thought that if we pitched him away for the most part, we could limit the damage he could do.
“That’s kind of the way it happened.’’
Watkins took over for Voth in the sixth inning and walked Judge once and struck him out once.
“Sure, we all had an idea going into the series what it was going to be like,’’ Watkins said. “Our plan of attack was just to hit certain locations. There wasn’t any sense of trying to be reserved and not go after him. I was just trying to locate in certain spots.
“He’s a dangerous hitter. You leave anything over the plate he’s going to do damage. I just tried to hit certain spots in both ABs. The first one I wasn’t able to execute as much and the second one I was able to executive once I fell behind.’’
When Watkins walked Judge in the seventh, the Yankee Stadium natives grew restless, booing the pitcher loudly and chanting “a–hole’’ at him.
“Of course, I heard the boos,’’ Watkins said.
Asked if that amused him, Watkins said, “No, it’s just Yankees fans.’’
Watkins, however, did speak reverentially about Judge.
“What an incredible feat he’s accomplishing,’’ Watkins said. “It’s impressive to watch. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind that I don’t want to be the guy [to give up No. 62].’’
Of course, it didn’t.
“We’re just trying to get him out,’’ Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “We were trying to make pitches to him. If the game situation calls for it, we’ll be a little bit more careful with him, but today that really didn’t come into play.’’
Asked if he has a sense of appreciation for what Judge is accomplishing, Hyde said: “Very much so. It’s a cool moment to see everybody on their feet and the energy in the ballpark was fantastic.’’
About the boos, Hyde said: “I get it. They want to see something special. It’s a cool moment. But our guy on the mound is trying to do his job also. We’re not trying to walk him. We’re trying to pitch him carefully.’’
The Orioles took pitching “carefully’’ to a new level on Saturday.