Aaron Judge can be held down for only so long.
After successfully keeping the New York Yankees masher within the confines of American Family Field for the first two games of their interleague series, the Milwaukee Brewers fell victim to two of his signature big swings on Sunday afternoon.
Judge pulled to within two of tying Roger Maris as the single-season home-run king in the American League by blasting Nos. 58 and 59 off a Brewers pitching staff that surrendered five round-trippers in all in an eventual 12-8 defeat.
"I think you have to make good pitches and we struggled with that today against him," said manager Craig Counsell. "But you also have to hit, and you absolutely tip your cap to the guy who hits them."
Milwaukee went deep three times as well, including twice in the first two innings in taking a 4-1 lead before New York blew past to prevent the sweep in a matchup of two of the three most prominent power-hitting teams in the major leagues in 2022.
Kolten Wong and Tyrone Taylor accounted for the early blasts and Rowdy Tellez hit his team-leading 31st in the eighth for the Brewers, who dropped two games back in the chase for the third wild-card spot in the NL.
BOX SCORE: Yankees 12, Brewers 8
Judge, meanwhile, reached base in four of his five plate appearances and also singled, doubled and drove in four runs. The multi-homer performance was his 11th after the Brewers had kept him in the yard the first two games of the three-game set.
The tone was set early on as the teams combined for five homers through the third inning.
Wong was first on the board, with a two-out, three-run shot to right off Gerrit Cole in the first that gave Milwaukee 200 for the first time since 2019. Oswaldo Cabrera answered with a solo shot in the second off Jason Alexander.
Taylor followed with a two-out solo shot to center in the second, stretching Milwaukee's lead out to 4-1 only to see New York answer back with consecutive solo shots by Judge and Anthony Rizzo.
"Very pure hitter. He sees a lot of pitches every AB and really has a good awareness of the strike zone," said Brent Suter, who didn't get a shot at facing Judge in the series. "He gets a lot of balls called as strikes against him because he’s so big.
"A really, really good approach and defensively, too, he can change games with his arm the way he tracks stuff down and he’s a good baserunner, too.
"He’s a really special talent."
The Brewers held that 4-3 lead through four innings but frittered it away in the fifth as the Yankees batted around against the combination of Hoby Milner (3-3), Justin Topa and Suter.
With the bases loaded and one out, Topa had a shot at escaping the inning unscathed when Giancarlo Stanton ripped a ground ball at third baseman Luis Urías.
He didn't field the ball cleanly but knocked it down enough to recover and throw to Wong at second, but Wong didn't have his foot on the base while the run scored.
Cabrera then greeted Suter with a broken-bat single to right against the shift to drive in another run. And two batters later, Kyle Higashioka sent a two-out, two-RBI single to center to up the Yankees' lead to 7-4.
"That's the inning when the game kind of turned," said Counsell. "Luis got his glove on the ball and made a great play, but he kind of fumbled with the exchange coming up. Then, Brent came in and pitched great but unfortunately, they added three runs after he made a bunch of great pitches with the broken-bat hit and the ground ball that went through.
"That was unfortunate."
Cole was done after five innings but punctuated his appearance by stranding a pair of runners with consecutive strikeouts of Tellez and Hunter Renfroe on 100.6-mph fastballs.
"We had a lead in the game and that's what's a little frustrating," said Counsell. "It was an early lead and there was a long way to go, but we scored a bunch against a really good pitcher.
"Unfortunately, we just weren't able to keep the runs off the board."
New York applied the finishing touches against Luis Perdomo in the seventh with three more runs, including back-to-back homers by Aaron Hicks and Judge.
Judge's traveled 443 feet out to left and at 110.3 mph was actually the least-hardest-hit ball to come off his bat. By the end of the game, Judge had accounted for the five hardest-hit balls on either side.
It also broke the three-way tie Judge held with Hank Greenberg and Jimmie Foxx for all of four innings for the most homers hit in a single season by a right-handed hitter in the AL.
Maris's 61-homer season came in 1961, while Babe Ruth hit 60 in 1927 and 59 in 1921.
"It was definitely a mistake I made, leaving it in the middle," said Perdomo through translator Carlos Brizuela of the 1-2 slider he grooved. "This is his moment right now, and when you make a mistake against him he's going to take advantage of it."
Tellez's two-run shot off Clarke Schmidt in the eighth gave him one more than Willy Adames for the Milwaukee team lead.
Judge got one final at-bat in the ninth and came to the plate to chants of "MVP! MVP! MVP!" but fans had to settle for a two-out, two-RBI double to left-center.
And while much of the focus has been on his chase of Maris, Judge will leave Milwaukee well within striking range of the AL lead in batting with a .316 average – just behind leader Luis Arraez of the Minnesota Twins and Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox.
Judge's total of 127 runs batted in leads the majors as does his homer total, with the triple crown well within his sights as the regular season winds down.
Brent Suter talks about winning the Yankees series, and the greatness that is Aaron Judge: pic.twitter.com/CxSPJx3h4e
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) September 18, 2022
"It’s good for the game," Suter said of Judge's chase. "He’s what you want kids to emulate. He’s a big-time role model, just the way he goes about his business on and off the field. He’s an incredible talent.
"It’s insane – I think he hit five balls today, all over 100 mph. He’s just a really special talent and honestly, I wish him well. I hope he breaks the Yankee record, I just didn’t want to see him do it against us today.
"I’m a big fan of his, and have a lot of respect for what he’s doing."
Three consecutive singles in the ninth loaded the bases for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson, with his ground-rule double to right off Clay Holmes narrowing the gap to 12-8 with nobody out.
After Renfroe popped out, Wong drew a walk to again load the bases. But Urías struck out as the potential tying run and Keston Hiura followed by by bouncing out.
The all-New York homestand continues Monday with the Mets and it won't get any easier as the Brewers will next face Max Scherzer, who will be fresh off the injured list.
"With the Yankees and Mets coming in, it was ‘Let’s win both series.’ First step of that is accomplished," Suter said. "We won the series but we would have loved the sweep. We played a great series.
"Now we’ve got the Mets coming in and another good matchup tomorrow, Scherzer vs. Corbin (Burnes)."
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Aaron Judge slugs a pair of homers as Brewers overpowered by Yankees