Aaron Judge entered the final week of the regular season needing one home run to tie and two home runs to break Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record. He decided to end the suspense early.
Judge slugged his 49th (a two-run homer) and 50th (a solo shot) home runs in the Yankees’ 11-3 victory over the Royals on Monday. It was the youngster’s second two-homer game in two days and fourth in his last 14 contests.
After putting up a blistering .329/.448/.691 batting line with 30 home runs and 66 RBI in the first half, Judge hit only .179/.346/.344 with seven dingers over his first 44 games of the second half. He struck out in a whopping 35.1 percent of his plate appearances over that stretch.
However, Judge has shown in September that he’s capable of re-adjusting to the league’s adjustment to him. In his first 22 tilts this month, the 25-year-old is hitting .307 with 13 bombs and 26 RBI. He’s cut his strikeout rate to a much more palatable 27.2 percent over that span.
Judge is going to capture American League Rookie of the Year honors going away, but his mammoth September has also put him back in the conversation for AL MVP. Jose Altuve looked like the clear favorite heading into this month and he still might be leading the pack with a .348/.414/.554 batting line, 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 107 runs and 32 stolen bases. Judge is now at .283/.418/.620 with 50 home runs, 108 RBI and 124 runs scored. One stands at 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds, the other at 5-foot-6 and 164 pounds. Both are very good. Both are very deserving of the AL’s top individual award.
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Matt Olson has been one of the best stories in baseball during the second half. Unfortunately, his season is going to end prematurely.
Olson strained his left hamstring on Sunday while stretching at first base to receive a throw. Although he initially remained in the game, he was eventually pulled and admitted Monday that the injury was “a little worse” a day later. An MRI revealed a Grade 2 strain, which means his 2017 campaign is over.
Olson was handed Oakland’s first base job after they traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners on August 6. Since being recalled on August 8, the 23-year-old has batted .283/.365/.725 with 20 home runs and 36 RBI over 41 games. Only J.D. Martinez (21) has clubbed more longballs over that stretch. Sixteen of Olson’s dingers have come across his previous 25 contests, and no one has hit more over that span.
Whatever Olson would have done over the final week for the A’s wasn’t going to affect his draft stock next spring much either way, but it’s certainly a bummer for his fantasy owners who were hoping for a nice finishing kick from the rookie. The young first baseman will finish the year with 47 home runs between the majors and minors.
Puig Benched Again
The Dodgers clinched the National League West last Friday and became the first team to win their 100th game Monday, but not all is merry in La La Land.
Yasiel Puig is back in manager Dave Roberts’ doghouse following a pair of incidences in recent days. Puig was thrown out trying to steal to end Saturday’s loss to the Giants and didn’t slide going into second base. Roberts expressed frustration with the outfielder after the game and then benched him Sunday. On Monday, Roberts benched Puig again after Yasiel showed up late to the ballpark.
“When you show up late for work, there have to be consequences,” Roberts said. “That was a decision that I think he made, not me.”
The skipper was quick to note that Puig, who has had plenty of disciplinary issues in the past, has made “tremendous strides” in the behavior department this year and has had a “tremendous season.” However, Roberts added that “the last thing we all need to be concerning ourselves with is somebody whose sole focus isn’t on the ball club.”
Puig is expected back in the Dodgers’ lineup Tuesday and will try to earn his way back in Roberts’ good graces. The 26-year-old is batting .259/.339/.474 with a career-high 26 home runs and 15 stolen bases this season. He also leads all National League right fielders when it comes to defensive metrics.
American League Quick Hits: Mitch Haniger went deep twice in Monday’s victory over the Athletics … Mookie Betts will have his left wrist examined on Tuesday after being pulled from Monday’s game … Josh Donaldson went 3-for-3 with a homer and a walk Monday in the Blue Jays' defeat of the Red Sox … Marwin Gonzalez went 4-for-5 with a home run and three RBI in Monday’s victory over the Rangers … Jean Segura (finger) missed a second straight game Monday and won’t return to the lineup until at least this weekend … Mike Trout swatted his 30th home run and stole his 22nd base in Monday’s loss to the White Sox … The White Sox’ Yoan Moncada (shin) and Jose Abreu (shin) missed Monday’s game but are hoping to play Tuesday … Gary Sanchez went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and a double in Monday’s victory over the Royals … Sean Manaea (back) has been cleared to start Thursday … Jose Altuve was lifted from Monday's game after being plunked on the forearm by a pitch, but X-rays were negative and he’s considered day-to-day … Eduardo Nunez returned to the Red Sox’ lineup Monday, but he aggravated his right knee injury and won’t play for the rest of the series versus the Blue Jays … Jharel Cotton underwent an MRI on his right elbow Monday after being lifted from Sunday’s start with tightness … Joey Gallo singled and ripped a solo home run Monday …
National League Quick Hits: Bryce Harper (knee) was supposed to return to the Nationals’ lineup Monday but has been delayed due to illness … Yu Darvish yielded just two hits and one run while striking out nine over seven frames on Monday versus the Padres … Kris Bryant went 3-for-4 with a home run, a walk, and two runs scored in the Cubs' win over the Cardinals on Monday … Yadier Molina was lifted from Monday's game against the Cubs and went through concussion protocol after taking consecutive foul tips off his mask in the seventh inning … Zack Greinke will start the National League Wild Card Game for the Diamondbacks … Justin Turner (thumb) remained out of the Dodgers' lineup Monday, but he worked out before the game and hopes to play Tuesday … Jedd Gyorko went 3-for-3 with a solo homer in Monday’s loss to the Cubs … Carlos Gonzalez (shoulder) remained out of the Rockies' lineup Monday but did appear as a pinch-hitter … Travis d'Arnaud went 2-for-3 with a homer, two RBI, and a walk in the Mets' win over the Braves on Monday night … Javier Baez singled and hit a three-run homer against the Cardinals on Monday … Seth Lugo tossed six scoreless innings while whiffing seven against the Braves on Monday … Michael Taylor homered and stole a base Monday in the Nationals' win over the Phillies … Odubel Herrera went 2-for-4 with a home run in the Phillies' loss to the Nationals on Monday … Jose Martinez (thumb) was given a cortisone shot Sunday and hopes to play later this week … Jonathan Lucroy tripled and homered in Monday’s loss to the Marlins … Nick Hundley homered and drove in four runs Monday in Arizona …