Aaron Judge burst into the spotlight with an unbelievable first half to the 2017 season. Prior to the Mid-Summer Classic, he was slashing an absurd .329/.448/.691 with 30 homers, 66 RBI and six stolen bases in 84 games. The 25-year-old rookie outfielder was on a pace to shatter many rookie records.
Then, regression hit him. Hard.
Entering play on Sunday, Judge had hit an abysmal .182/.346/.365 with just nine homers, 21 RBI and a 79/45 K/BB ratio over 52 games in the season's second half.
As bad as he has been in the second half though, it doesn't change the fact that Judge has had a spectacular rookie campaign overall. On Sunday, he did etch his name into the record books. With his fourth-inning solo homer off of Nick Martinez, Judge became just the second player in major league history to hit 40 or more home runs in his rookie season.
He wasn't finished just quite yet though. In the sixth inning, he blasted another solo home run, this time off of Yohander Mendez. The only player in big league history to club more balls over the wall in his rookie season is Mark McGwire who hit 49 homers with the Athletics in 1987.
Judge will have go get extremely hot, or play in an abnormal amount of day games, in order to catch McGwire. Judge has swatted 18 of his home runs in 49 day games this season (one every 2.72 games) while hitting 23 long balls in 88 night games (one every 3.82 games.)
He also became just the fifth player in Yankees history to hit 40 or more home runs before his age-25 season. The company he keeps in that conversation are the legendary Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. No matter what the feat, that's impressive company.
That sentiment wasn't lost on Judge when asked about it after Sunday's game, calling the moment "surreal". "Never, as a kid, did I ever think I'd be in the same sentence as those guys, so it's quite an honor. It's pretty humbling." he explained.
Judge also set a rookie record in the game by drawing his 107th walk. That mark paces all of Major League Baseball this season as well.
Judges' teammate, Gary Sanchez, was also mentioned in the same breath as McGwire on Sunday. Sanchez clubbed a pair of homers of his own in a rout over the Rangers, giving him 30 long balls on the season. It also gave him 50 in his first 162 games in the big leagues, a feat that no player other than McGwire had accomplished.
Judge and Sanchez also became the first teammates in the Statcast era to each blast home runs that traveled 460 feet or more in the same ballgame.
The future looks incredibly bright in New York these days, especially with these young sluggers leading the charge on offense.
Nationals Clinch National League East
It took a little bit of waiting around in the clubhouse after Sunday's victory over the Phillies, but the Washington Nationals became the first team to officially punch their ticket to the postseason, clinching the National League East when the Marlins fell to the Braves.
The fate of the division was never really in doubt, it was just a matter of when the club would officially clinch. They have been in first place since April 12 and currently hold a 20 game lead of the Marlins.
It's the second straight season that the Nationals have captured their division crown and the fourth time in the last six seasons. However with all of their success in recent seasons, they have yet to advance so far as the National League Championship Series, bowing out in the Divisional round each of their previous three trips into October.
Stephen Strasburg was a major factor in Sunday's victory, striking out 10 batters over eight shutout innings. He has now been unscored upon in each of his last 34 innings, a Nationals' franchise-record. He'll try to extend that dominance when he takes on the Dodgers on Saturday.
With 19 games remaining on the docket for the regular season, the Nationals will have a chance to get their ailing and veteran stars as much rest is needed down the stretch and will be able to align their rotation however they see fit. They are just four games behind the Dodgers in the win column though, and will continue to play with purpose in an effort to clinch homefield advantage throughout the National League playoffs.
Indians Run Streak to 18
Another day, another win for the Cleveland Indians.
With another victory, and a sweep over the Orioles, the Indians have extended their franchise-record winning streak to 18 games. Only four other clubs have won 18 or more games consecutively in Major League history.
The Indians utilized solo homers from Roberto Perez and Francisco Lindor in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie and put the Tribe ahead to stay.
Lindor has been extremely locked in at the plate during the club's 18-game winning streak, hitting .357 (25-for-70) with eight homers and 14 RBI during that stretch.
Trevor Bauer has also been instrumental in the winning streak, and was the winning pitcher yet again on Sunday. He racked up seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings of two-run baseball against the Orioles. Bauer has now won each of his last five starts, including four during the club's epic winning streak.
Now 16-8 on the season, Bauer has won each of his last nine decisions and hasn't suffered a defeat since July 16 against the Athletics in Oakland.
With the Indians' win on Sunday, and the Astros falling to the Athletics in Oakland, the Indians overtook the Astros for the best record in the American League. Given how well they're playing at the moment, adding homefield advantage throughout the American League playoffs would put the Indians as even bigger favorites to take home the American League pennant and return to the World Series.
The Indians will begin a three-game series against the Tigers at home on Monday with Carlos Carrasco toeing the slab against Matt Boyd.
American League Quick Hits: Bradley Zimmer suffered a broken bone in his left hand on Sunday as he was stepped on while attempting to beat out an infield single. He'll undergo further evaluation on Monday, after which the club will have a better idea on how much time the rookie outfielder stands to miss... Steven Souza (knee) missed his second consecutive game, though the Rays are optimistic that he'll be able to return on Monday... Josh Donaldson missed his third straight game due to illness... David Price (elbow) is scheduled to throw a three-inning simulated game on Wednesday... Eduardo Nunez (knee) hopes to return to the Red Sox' lineup on Tuesday... Carlos Gomez has been diagnosed with a significant ankle sprain and is out indefinitely... James Paxton (pectoral) is set to return to the Mariners' rotation on Friday against the Astros in Houston... Felix Hernandez (shoulder) will return to their rotation on Thursday against the Rangers... The Astros will skip Collin McHugh's next start due to his fingernail issue... Blue Jays' manager John Gibbons confirmed Sunday that Aaron Sanchez (finger) will not return this season... Teoscar Hernandez clubbed his first two big league home runs as the Blue Jays crushed the Tigers... Alex Cobb allowed just one run over five innings in a victory over the Red Sox... A day after hitting for the cycle, Jose Abreu crushed two homers in a rout of Madison Bumgarner and the Giants... Rougned Odor was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Yankees due to a mild ankle sprain... Jason Vargas defeated the Twins to earn his 15th victory of the season... Mike Trout swatted his 28th home run in a win over the Mariners... Ryon Healy went 3-for-5 with a homer in a win against the Astros.
National League Quick Hits: Noah Syndergaard was scratched from his scheduled simulated game on Sunday due to general soreness. He'll throw another bullpen at some point this week... Jake Arrieta (hamstring) is scheduled to play catch on Sunday... Tommy Pham was held out of the Cardinals lineup on Sunday due to recurring vision issues... Amed Rosario returned to the Mets' lineup on Sunday after missing six games with a bruised index finger... Despite a vote of confidence from manager Torey Lovullo, Fernando Rodney ceded a save chance to Archie Bradley on Sunday... Asdrubal Cabrera was lifted from Sunday's game after being hit by a pitch in his right ankle. He's considered day-to-day... Matt Adams was forced to leave Sunday's game due to right hamstring cramps. He's expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday... Victor Robles collected his first big league hit in Sunday's win over the Phillies... Michael Wacha fired eight scoreless frames in a victory over the Pirates... Randal Grichuk clubbed his 20th home run in that victory... Zach Davies hurled seven innings of one-run ball to beat the Cubs... Lane Adams blasted a walk-off two-run homer to beat the Marlins in extra innings... Tyler Glasnow will start for the Pirates on Wednesday against the Brewers... Alex Verdugo blasted his first career home run as the Dodgers fell to the Rockies... Tyler Chatwood fired five scoreless innings in a win over the Dodgers... Nolan Arenado belted his 32nd home run in that victory while Mark Reynolds slugged a grand slam... Robbie Ray struck out 12 over six innings of two-run ball in a win against the Padres. J.D. Martinez blasted two solo homers in that game and now has 21 homers and 45 RBI in his first 45 games with the D'Backs.