In July 2017, as the 30th anniversary of Don Mattingly’s record-tying eight-game home run streak of 1987 approached, I asked Mattingly if he thought the record would ever be broken.
“I kinda do,” Mattingly told me. “It seems like there's enough guys that get close.”
Mattingly had tied a record set by Dale Long in 1956. In 1993, six years after Mattingly equaled the mark, Ken Griffey, Jr. also matched it with an eight-game streak.
Since then, four players have made it to seven games in a row with a home run: Jim Thome in 2002, Barry Bonds in 2004, Kevin Mench in 2006, and Kendrys Morales in 2018.
“The way home runs are being hit, I would think it would be something that somebody would do,” Mattingly said then.
And one somebody who Mattingly thought definitely had a shot at it when we spoke in 2017 is the guy who has a shot at it this week – Aaron Judge, who enters Monday with home runs in five consecutive games. It was a conversation that happened shortly before the All-Star break that year, when Judge was batting .329 with 30 home runs.
“That’s the kind of guy,” Mattingly said. “(One) who’s hitting for average, getting good pitches to hit, and he can hit ‘em out of anywhere. To me, if you get the right guy, there’s no reason (it can’t be broken). It’s just a hot streak. And if they’ve got a little power, then it’s something that can happen.”
And the streak itself, as Mattingly has long maintained, is more about feeling good at the plate than having a home run swing.
“I don’t think it necessarily has to be a total home run hitter. I think it’s just a hot streak.”
Judge will try to make it six games in a row Monday night at Yankee Stadium against Jake Arrieta and the Phillies.