Aaron Select, Albert Pujols closing in on baseball immortality

Aaron Choose, Albert Pujols closing in on baseball immortality

Baseball fans could be treated to a double-dose of home run immortality this week, as both Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols are closing in on historic milestones.

In the Bronx, Judge’s incredible season for the New York Yankees rolls on, as he enters play Tuesday with 59 home runs on the campaign. Judge belted a pair of home runs for the New York Yankees on Sunday, in the Yankees’ 12-8 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, leaving him just two shy of Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, set back in 1961.

Judge’s second blast on Sunday was a no-doubter off the bat, as you can tell by the reaction from Brewers pitcher Luis Perdomo:

As you can hear from the crowd after that moon shot, the calls for Judge to win American League Most Valuable Player continue to grow. Judge leads the league in a number of offensive categories, including on-base percentage (.419), slugging percentage (.701) and on-base plus slugging (1.120). His 59 home runs leads the majors, and also puts him 20 home runs ahead of Kyle Schwarber, who ranks second in baseball with 39 home runs.

But perhaps the best case for Judge’s MVP candidacy comes via Wins Above Replacement. Heading into play Tuesday, Judge’s WAR of 9.6 leads the league, putting him ahead of Shoehei Ohtani’s mark of 8.7.

It is also the highest since the 10.7 posted by Mookie Betts during the 2018 season, when he won MVP.

Then there is Pujols, who is closing in on one of baseball’s most elite clubs: The 700 club.

Currently, that elite club has just three members: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Pujols is on the cusp of joining them. After a slow start to the season, Pujols locked in as August began, and has 12 home runs since August 10th. On that date, Pujols launched a solo shot off Austin Gomber of the Colorado Rockies, kicking off his late-season hot streak at the plate.

On Friday night, Pujols launched this rocket to deep left off Raynel Espinal of the Cincinnati Reds, giving him 19 home runs on the season, and 698 for his career:

The week ahead should give Judge ample opportunities to reach Maris’ mark. The Yankees kickoff a homestand tonight, starting with a quick two-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates are expected to start Luis Ortiz on the mound Tuesday night, having just recalled him to Pittsburgh after an injury to J.T. Brubaker, and Roansy Contreras on Wednesday.

Judge has yet to face either pitcher this year, but Ortiz, the young flamethrower, has bounced around between AA, AAA and the Pirates this season. Contreras, another younger arm in the Pittsburgh organization, has spent time at both AAA and with the major league club this season. In just over 83 inning of work with the Pirates, Contreras has allowed ten home runs.

Should Judge get through this two-game set with the Pirates without notching another home run, he’ll get his chance against the Yankees’ bitter rivals when the Boston Red Sox come to town for a four-game series, the final meeting between the rivals this season. Judge has 5 home runs in 14 games against Boston this season, and two of those came against Nick Pivetta, slated to start for the Red Sox on Saturday.

Pujols might face a tougher road to reach his milestone, at least in the early part of the week. The Cardinals travel west to start a West Coast swing, starting with three games against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mike Clevinger gets the ball for the Padres on Tuesday night, and Pujols has just a single hit in 14 career at-bats against him. Wednesday night will see lefty Blake Snell on the bump for San Diego, and Pujols has just one hit off Snell in his ten career at-bats.

His best chance might come Thursday, when Joe Musgrove is expected to get the call for the Padres. Pujols homered off Musgrove back in April of 2017, when he was with the Los Angeles Angels.

About the Author: camille r mercer

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