(Reuters) – New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge delivered once again with a home run that paved the way for a come-from-behind 6-4 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday, squaring their best-of-seven American League Championship Series at 2-2.
With the Yankees trailing 4-0 in the seventh inning, the 6-foot 7-inch (201 cm) slugger sent a towering solo home run more than 400 feet over centerfield.
That one mighty hit from Judge, who hit a three-run homer and made two outstanding catches in Monday’s 8-1 win over the Astros, ignited a subdued Yankee Stadium crowd and seemed to give the team belief.
The 25-year-old delivered an encore by tying the game with a double in the eighth before the Yankees went on to take the victory and even the series.
“It’s pretty surreal to be honest,” Judge told reporters.
“I’ve been in that situation in my head a thousand times, game on the line, but the dream’s not the same as reality, being out there with that crowd and that atmosphere.”
The California native has taken New York by storm, breaking the Major League Baseball record for home runs in a season by a rookie (52).
His 33 homers at home also eclipsed Babe Ruth’s record for home runs by a Yankee at Yankee Stadium.
Judge is favorite to win the league Rookie of the Year award, and is also rated by some experts as a contender for most valuable player honors.
“I felt Aaron’s home run lit a little spark,” New York manager Joe Girardi told reporters. “That was a huge at-bat by Aaron to get us in that situation.
“I’m caught up in it (the excitement) like everyone else, anticipating he’s gong to do something great because we’ve seen it so many times this year.
“It was (a) special (atmosphere) again tonight. Every home game has been special. I feel the fans are back.”
The series continues with Game Five at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, when Houston will send their number one starter Dallas Keuchel to the mound, while the Yankees will start Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)