Injury? What injury? A few days ago, New York Yankees fans suffered a heart attack when star outfielder Aaron Judge was hit by an errant pitch to his hand. Given the news of Mookie Betts' own hand injury forcing him out for 6-8 weeks, fans were definitely worried about his availability.

Thankfully, Aaron Boone hinted after the game that there was a chance that Judge would not miss any time, as initial tests came out negative. While the former MVP ended up missing a game, he was able to return rather quickly, playing during Thursday's contest against the Baltimore Orioles. Judge wasted no time in his return, hitting a two-run blast in his second at-bat.

After the game, Judge was of course asked about his ailing hand, per ESPN. The Yankees star admitted that his hand felt a little bit sore, but that he was otherwise okay.

“It felt good,” Judge said. “There's still some swelling, some soreness and stuff like that, especially on foul balls, but if you square it up, it feels pretty good.”

Unfortunately, as evidenced by the scoreboard, the Yankees had a pretty rough game. The Orioles drove in 17 runs in the game as Baltimore piled it on and on. The loss mean that New York's hold on the AL East is down to just half a game.

As for Judge, well, it's a good thing that the Yankees star ended up missing only a game. A similar incident occurred in 2018, when Judge got hit by a pitch to his hand. The star outfielder missed 45 games due to the broken wrist.

Yankees, Orioles neck-and-neck for AL East crown

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (99) reacts after hitting a two-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles during the third inning at Yankee Stadium.
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles emerged last season as the kings of the AL East amidst a slump from the Yankees. After a few rebuilding years, Baltimore re-emerged with an ultra-talented young lineup bolstered by some veterans. And while their playoff run ended in heartbreak, many pegged them as a good contender for the AL East again.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have bounced back as a title contender after a truly dismal 2023 season. The Juan Soto pickup has paid dividends and then some. Soto's presence has been enhanced by Judge returning to his MVP form as well. He's not quite on pace to break his 62-HR season, but he's leading the league in dingers with 27.

It's been a tight race so far between both team. The Yankees jumped out to an early lead in the AL East, while the Orioles struggled to start the season. As the season went on though, Baltimore slowly but surely clawed their way back. It's not like the Yankees started going on a major slump or anything, too.

Either way, this is going to be one hell of a battle for the AL East. These two teams are the best in the American League, and they'll likely be competing for the division until the final game of the season. With Judge back in tow, can the Yankees finish the job and reclaim that division title (and likely, a first-round bye?)