ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Aaron Judge took a smooth, mighty swing, then broke into a big smile as he trotted around the bases. Heading home, his teammates backed away, letting him touch the plate alone.
At last, the New York Yankees slugger had the American League home run record all to himself.
Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ AL record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.
“It’s a big relief,” Judge said. “Everybody can finally sit down in their seats and watch the ballgame. It’s been a fun ride so far, getting a chance to do this. … Getting a chance to have your name next to someone as great as Roger Maris and Babe Ruth and those guys is incredible.”
Judge said he felt “quite a few emotions” after connecting, thinking about his family and fans and supporters. He said it would probably be after the season until he’d truly soak in and appreciate the significance of his achievement.
“In my book, it’s just another day,” the stoic Judge said.
After slamming his helmet in a rare show of frustration when he went without a homer in the first game of the doubleheader against the Rangers in Texas, Judge hit the third pitch of the nightcap into the first row of seats in left field.
That trip around the bases after a long chase was certainly a mixture of pure joy and relief for No. 99, whose only homer in the previous 13 games had been when he tied Maris’ 61 last Wednesday in Toronto.
Judge did it just in time, too, homering on the next-to-last day of the regular season.
Barry Bonds holds the major league record of 73 home runs, set with the San Francisco Giants in 2001.
Judge’s milestone ball was caught by Cory Youmans of Dallas, who was sitting in Section 31. When asked what he was going to do with the ball while being taken away with security to have the ball authenticated, Youmans responded, “Good question. I haven’t thought about it.”
Asked after the 3-2 loss if he’d gotten the ball, Judge said, “not yet.”
“I don’t know where it’s at. It’d be great to get it back,” he said.
Judge also praised the fan for making a “great catch” and said the man had every right to keep the prized souvenir.
Another fan was escorted away after leaping over the rail into a gap between the seats and the left-field wall. The crowd of 38,832 was Texas’ third sellout of the season.
Almost as soon as Judge connected on a 1-1 slider from right-hander Jesús Tinoco, his Yankees teammates streamed out of the dugout to celebrate with him. But they stayed away from home plate — leaving him to step on it before sharing hugs and high-fives.
“You never know how you’re going to react in the moment. And it was just so, so very cool,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Gerrit Cole, who set a Yankees single-season strikeout record in the same game, said he didn’t know if Judge was pressing as of late, but chuckled when saying everybody else on the team was.
“Just wanted it to happen so bad,” Cole said. “So I don’t know if that’s pressing, or it’s just hoping hard. We were all just hoping really hard I think … He’s not trying to get the record for himself. He’s trying to get the record for his teammates, and for the Yankee fans.”
New York wound up losing the second game after winning the opener 5-4. With one game left in the regular season, the split left the Yankees with a fitting 99-62 record — Judge’s number and his home run total.
Judge’s mother and father were in the stands to see the 30-year-old outfielder end a five-game homerless streak, including the earlier game Tuesday when he was 1 for 5 with a single.
The Maris family wasn’t in Texas after following Judge around for a while, but Roger Maris Jr. tweeted, “Congratulations to Aaron Judge and his family on Aaron’s historic home run number 62! It has definitely been a baseball season to remember. You are all class and someone who should be revered. For the MAJORITY of the fans, we can now celebrate a new CLEAN HOME RUN KING!!”
When the top of the first ended, and Judge went to take his place in right field, he carried the glove and cap of first baseman DJ LeMahieu, who patted him on the back.
The fans in right field cheered Judge loudly while he warmed up by tossing a ball back and forth with center fielder Harrison Bader. Judge then provided another souvenir ball when he tossing the one he had warmed up with several rows deep.
Judge, eligible to become a free agent after this season, struck out on a full-count pitch when batting again in the second.
He took his spot right field in the bottom of the inning before Boone pulled him from the game. Oswaldo Cabrera, who had been at second base, moved to right field and the slugger got another loud ovation as he jogged back to the Yankees dugout on the third base side.
Reaction quickly came from far beyond the ballpark.
“History made, more history to make,” President Joe Biden posted on Twitter.
Tweeted former Yankees star Derek Jeter: “Congrats @TheJudge44 on 62! Postseason next!!!”
Former President Bill Clinton also tweeted congratulations, as did former MLB players like Paul O’Neill, Dwight Gooden, Dave Winfield and Ryan Howard.
Maris’ 61 for the Yankees had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Along with Bonds’ record, Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 for the Chicago Cubs during a four-season span starting in 1998.
McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans — perhaps many — until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.
A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.
The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row Judge had played since Aug. 5.
Boone initially said Judge earned himself a day off Wednesday, but then said he would speak with the slugger who had already said he hoped to play in the regular season finale, before the AL East champion Yankees have five days until the AL Division Series.
“We’ll have a conversation and see what makes the most sense,” Boone said. “And I’ll try and lead him in a certain direction, maybe he’ll lead me back in the other direction.”
Judge had gone 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.
Judge likely will come up short of becoming the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and goes into the final day of the regular season trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315. Judge was at .311, right where he had started the day.
Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.
“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”
Baker Mayfield Los Angeles Rams defeats Las Vegas Raiders – TSN
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Baker Mayfield was waived by Carolina on Monday and claimed by the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday. After a cross-country flight, he got one short practice with his new team on Wednesday.
And on Thursday night, Mayfield led the Rams to two late fourth-quarter touchdowns and a stunning 17-16 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, capped by a 23-yard scoring pass to Van Jefferson with 10 seconds left.
Mayfield could only wonder what Friday will bring in this wild week of his life, but the former No. 1 overall pick knows it probably won’t be more fun than one of the most amazing moments of his bumpy NFL journey.
“I don’t know if you could write it any better than that,” Mayfield said. “Obviously, we’d like to be a little bit more stress-free, but it’s a pretty damn good story, I’ll be honest with you.”
Just two days after the Rams (4-9) claimed him, Mayfield went 22 of 35 for 230 yards — and eventually snapped the defending Super Bowl champions’ six-game losing streak in dramatic style.
“What a quick study,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He just got here five minutes ago and figured out a way to be able to do some special things tonight.”
The Rams went on a 75-yard TD drive moments before the winning drive, the latter of which ended with Mayfield finding Jefferson behind rookie Sam Webb in the end zone. The 98-yard march was the longest go-ahead TD drive in the final 2 minutes of a game over the past 45 NFL seasons.
Los Angeles trailed 16-3 after Daniel Carlson’s third field goal with 12:20 to play, but Mayfield got the Rams moving and Cam Akers made a short TD run with 3:19 left, one play after he fought for a first down at the Vegas 1 on a gritty fourth-down catch.
The Rams’ defense stopped Derek Carr and the Raiders at the 2-minute warning, but AJ Cole dropped a 64-yard punt at the Rams 2.
Undaunted and with no timeouts, Mayfield led the Rams downfield again — with ample help from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Raiders’ Jerry Tillery for knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s hands after a play. The drive included a contested 32-yard reception by Ben Skowronek, who finished with career highs of seven catches for 89 yards.
“Man, you forget what winning is like, and it sure is fun,” McVay said after the Rams’ first victory since Oct. 16.
Josh Jacobs rushed for 99 yards and the only touchdown for the Raiders (5-8), whose three-game winning streak ended in humiliating fashion. Less than four weeks after Las Vegas lost in former ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday’s NFL coaching debut with Indianapolis, the Raiders lost to a quarterback who joined his new team less than 48 hours before the game and had just one brief walkthrough practice.
“We’ve played against (Mayfield) before and know he’s a really good competitor,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “He made some critical throws for them. We prepared for all three quarterbacks, not necessarily knowing who we were going to get and on a short week, so give them credit. He made enough plays.”
Carr passed for 137 yards with no TDs and two interceptions. Davante Adams made two jaw-dropping catchesin the first half, but had none in the second half while Las Vegas’ offense managed only 67 yards.
“We left some plays and points out there,” Carr said. “And then at the end of the game, I just didn’t think we finished it how we could have finished it to win the game. You know, not even having to put the defense out there or anything like that. We just didn’t execute.”
John Wolford ran the opening series for the Rams’ offense, but McVay then turned it over to Mayfield, a player he has long admired. Mayfield was having a terrible season for the Panthers, but he improbably injected a spark into the Rams with a handful of big plays and decent drives despite minimal knowledge of the playbook.
“There was kind of a shortened list of plays that I was really, really studying,” Mayfield said. “I will say we dipped out of that little list and got into some other things.”
With McVay apparently giving detailed instructions into his helmet before each huddle, Mayfield immediately got the Rams moving. Akers short-circuited Mayfield’s solid second drive with a fumble in the red zone, but Rams linebacker Ernest Jones made an end-zone interception late in the first half.
Mayfield completed 15 of his 20 passes in the fourth quarter, flawlessly directing his new teammates downfield for two scores.
“I love to compete,” Mayfield said. “I love this game.”
Jacobs injured his hand early in the second half and briefly went to the locker room, but kept playing. … Aaron Donald (high ankle sprain) missed his second game due to injury in his nine-year NFL career. … Raiders RG Alex Bars injured his knee on the opening drive and didn’t return. … Rams WR Jacob Harris injured his shoulder playing special teams in the second half.
Raiders: Host New England on Sunday, Dec. 18.
Rams: At Green Bay on Monday, Dec. 19.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
The free agent market is sizzling, who’s left for the Blue Jays?
With MLB’s 2022 Winter Meetings in San Diego this week, the number of free agent signings has reached a frenzied pace. As of this writing, 44 free agents have already signed deals worth a combined $1.9 billion so far this offseason, headlined by monster deals for Yankees OF and AL MVP Aaron Judge (nine years, $360 million), new Phillies SS Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million), and new Texas ace Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million). That figure doesn’t include the reported five-year, $90 million guaranteed deal that Japanese star OF Masataka Yoshida apparently agreed to on Wednesday. The average free agent contract so far has been for 2.4 years and $44 million total value.
The Toronto Blue Jays have so far been unlucky in their free agent pursuits, highlighted by starter Kyle Gibson passing up the same one-year, $10 million offer made by Toronto to sign instead with the Baltimore Orioles. The Jays have also been mentioned in relation to starters Justin Verlander, Andrew Heaney and Jameson Taillon, as well as reliever Kenley Jansen and CF Cody Bellinger, who have all signed with other teams. All of their other AL East peers have been active this week signing and trading for players.
The need for a power-hitting left-handed bat to balance out the Jays lineup has been clearly defined as necessary to improve this club’s postseason chances following the Teoscar Hernández trade last month. A number of LHH OFs have agreed to deals already, including the above mentioned Masataka Yoshida, Joc Pederson, who accepted the San Francisco Giants $19.65 million qualifying offer (QO), and Cody Bellinger, who signed a one year, $17.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Remaining LHH free agent options in CF include Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Kiermaier. Should the Jays decide to keep George Springer in CF instead of moving him to right to reduce the wear and tear on his body, they could also look at left-handed hitters Joey Gallo or Michael Conforto in RF. Trading Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in a package for starting pitching or a CF like the switch-hitting Bryan Reynolds or Dalton Varsho might make sense if they were were able to sign one of Michael Brantley or Andrew Benintendi for LF, But those trades would both be costly in terms of the likely drain on an already bottom third ranked farm system.
Further, with the St. Louis Cardinals signing free agent catcher Willson Contreras to a five year, $87.5 million contract, it appears less likely that the Cards might be a trade destination for one of the Blue Jays three catchers. One of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno in a deal for switch-hitting OF Dylan Carlson or LHH RF Lars Nootbaar looked good on paper, but now seems less likely.
Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings
Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.
The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.
With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.
Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.
Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).
Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.
The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.
Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.
The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.
Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.
Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.
Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.
Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.
During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.
Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.
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