October 10, 2020 | 4:06am
There must be something about Oct. 9 and wild plays at the wall for the Yankees.
On the anniversary of the day young fan Jeffrey Maier stole a home run for Derek Jeter and the Yankees against the Orioles in 1996, Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner both had plays at the fence at San Diego’s Petco Park in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Rays — with very different results.
And this time, it ended in a loss, as the 2-1 defeat Friday night finished the Yankees’ season.
The Yankees led by a run with two outs in the bottom of the fifth when Austin Meadows turned on a pitch from Gerrit Cole and sent it deep to right. Judge tried to time his jump in an attempt to rob the Rays of a game-tying solo shot. But when the 6-foot-7 Judge jumped, he almost immediately banged his head on padding that jutted out from the right field fence.
Cole thought Judge had a chance at grabbing it. It’s unlikely Judge would have brought the ball back, but he might have had a shot to get a glove on it. Instead, Meadows finally got the Rays on the board against Cole, who had yet to allow a hit on the night.
“I had a bead on it from the get-go,’’ Judge said. “I got too close to the wall and ran out of room. I didn’t make the play. It changes the game if I rob that homer. It’s a different outcome. It’s a tough one.”
Judge said he knew the overhang was there after running into the fence earlier in the series.
“I was right there,’’ Judge said. “I think I’ve got a good shot at any ball that gets hit to right field. I’ve got to get up there.”
The Yankees had better luck an inning later, when the red-hot Randy Arozarena jumped on a Cole pitch to lead off the bottom of the sixth. He looked to have a sure go-ahead homer, but the ball hung up and Gardner got back in front of the wall in left — where there was no overhang — and made a terrific leaping catch to steal the homer and keep the game tied.
Neither play had quite the drama of the Jeter play, which came in Game 1 of the ALCS, with the Yankees in search of their first World Series title in 18 years.
At the time, the Yankees trailed by a run in the bottom of the eighth, and Jeter hit a fly ball to right, where Tony Tarasco appeared to be in position to catch it. But Maier, who was 12 at the time, reached his glove over the wall, and it went over the fence. Umpire Rich Garcia ruled it a homer — despite a vehement argument from Tarasco and Baltimore manager Davey Johnson — and the Yankees went on to win the game in the bottom of the 11th on a Bernie Williams homer.