Aaron Judge’s pursuit of the AL home run record is a one-man race.
His pursuit of the AL Triple Crown is more complicated, thanks to a batting title race that includes a player who will share the court with Judge all weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Judge went 0-for-2 with three walks in Thursday’s 5-4, 10-inning win over Boston, but his pitching team and defense helped ensure he kept his title lead at bat holding Red Sox star shortstop Xander Bogaerts without a hit in five at bat. After Thursday’s action, with 13 games remaining for both teams, Judge was down .31589 (169 for 535) while Bogaerts was down .31358 (164 for 523). Twins utility Luis Arraez, who led the race for much of the season, trailed at .31262 (161 for 515).
While all eyes – including Commissioner Rob Manfred, who was present on Thursday – were on the judge for home runs Nos. 61 and 62 to tie and break Roger Maris’ record batting title battle with Bogaerts turned out to be intriguing. sideshow as the Yankees slugger hunted down a possible Triple Crown. It would only be the second in the past 55 years, joining Miguel Cabrera, who snapped it up in 2012.
“They’re both larger than life, franchise face guys, so that’s totally normal, right?” said Red Sox outfielder Rob Refsnyder, who came through the Yankees system with Judge and was Bogaerts’ teammate all season. “And it is normal that [Judge] pursues it by playing with us. I think it’s great for baseball, great for the fans.
Yankees pitchers had a bigger goal this weekend to pitch well to help the club get closer to a division title. But Bogaerts, the retired Red Sox No. 3 hitter, also thought to serve as an additional challenge to help his teammate’s historic season reach another milestone.
All about Aaron Judge and his pursuit of the home run record:
“[Bogaerts] is a great hitter that we have to try to find a way to stay away and neutralize,” manager Aaron Boone said before the game.
After calling Yankee Stadium home for a three-season game, Refsnyder thought the crowd this weekend might be rooting a little more than usual against Bogaerts, knowing what was at stake for Judge. Bogaerts predicted it earlier this week, when he told the Boston Globe: “They’d hate me even more [in New York]if he were to deny the Judge the Triple Crown.
But Refsnyder had some appreciation and some perspective for the run, especially after playing with Arraez last year in Minnesota to give him some insight into the top three contenders.
“[Judge] is just a hit machine,” Refsnyder said. “It’s crazy to watch. It’s quite special. But Bogey also had a hell of a run. It’s crazy that he’s kind of in the way and then there’s obviously Arraez, who can put 10 punches safe in a series very quickly. It’s going to be cool.
Judge was hitting .274 with 31 homers on July 15. But a dominant second half — he was hitting .388 with 29 homers and a 1.405 OPS in his last 57 games entering Thursday — propelled him into the batting title conversation, which is the only leg of the Triple. Crown that was still close. Judge’s 60 home runs led the AL by 23 (over Yordan Alvarez of the Astros) and his 128 RBI led Jose Ramirez of the Guardians by 13.
As a baseball fan, Refsnyder hoped the batting title race would come on the last day of the regular season. But as he stood in the visiting Yankee Stadium clubhouse on Thursday, he knew how he had to handicap the run.
“I should shoot for Bogaerts just because he’s a crazy super teammate who kind of embodies what you want as a franchise [player]said Refsnyder. “You hear things playing against someone and then you play with them and you’re like, ‘Wow. He lives up to the billing. Great teammate like Aaron. So obviously Bogey, but if Bogey doesn’t get it and the judge can do the home run and the triple crown, [is] than the best offensive season ever?
New York Post