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The Home Run Derby is already being blamed for Aaron Judge’s struggles

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about how every year the Home Run Derby is made the scapegoat for players’ second-half struggles. Scores of studies have found inconclusive evidence that the Derby has any meaningful influence on a player in the second half of the season. The most reasonable explanation is simple regression toward the mean.

Aaron Judge, by way of being baseball’s most productive hitter and winning the Derby, had the most eyes on him to begin the second half of the 2017 season. In four games since the All-Star break, Judge has one measly hit — an infield single — with three walks and six strikeouts in 21 plate appearances.

Already, the Derby is being blamed for Judge’s impotent bat. At the end of his column on the subject, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes:

He looked far fresher in Game 2, and Girardi said he planned to rest Judge either Tuesday or Wednesday in Minnesota. Nevertheless, to dismiss the Derby Jinx outright is to ignore both history and common sense. The Phillies’ Bobby Abreu in 2005 (18 homers in 323 at-bats pre-Derby, six homers in 265 at-bats afterward) and the Mets’ David Wright in 2006 (20 homers in 339 at-bats pre-Derby, six homers in 243 at-bats post-Derby) both struggled greatly.

To his credit, Davidoff also mentioned that Judge also hit into some bad luck, particularly in the second game of Sunday’s double-header against the Red Sox. Judge hit a line drive right to Mookie Betts in right field, and he crushed a baseball 411 feet to center field that was caught at the wall by center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. If the ball had gone one foot further, however, the column probably doesn’t get written and the Derby doesn’t become the scapegoat.

Judge appears to be the most level-headed about his performance. He said, “You’re going to have your ups and downs. You’re going to have your times when you do everything right and you still get out. It’s just part of it. I’m happy with the swing. I’m happy with a lot of the swings I took the last couple of days. But you don’t get any results from it. That’s baseball. That’s the game we play.”

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

White Sox 3, Cubs 1: Cubs were hot, White Sox had lost nine straight so of course the Sox beat the Cubs. Baseball is cool on the merits, but one of the best things it has going for it outside of the game action is that it does not lend itself to people spending an hour talking about each game on some studio show beforehand, making predictions about who will do what, the “keys to the game” and all of that. Baseball is wonderfully random. It just . . . happens.

As for what happened here: Adam Engel and Matt Davidson homered and Miguel Gonzalez allowed one run and seven hits in seven and a third.

Astros 13, Phillies 4: Well, some things are predictable, like Jose Altuve getting his hits. He got four on Sunday. He got four last night. He has a 16-game hitting streak now, during which he’s hitting .528 (38 for 72). He’s batting .365/431/.574 on the year. He’s like Wade Boggs with more power and, presumably, a lower tolerance for airplane beers. Altuve drove in three. Alex Bregman homered and doubled twice. Brian McCann went deep. Josh Reddick, Yuli Guriel and Carlos Beltran each drove in two in this rain-interrupted game which gave the Houston batters a number of Phillies relievers to feast upon.

Blue Jays 4, Athletics 2: Francisco Liriano pitched on three days rest to cover for the blister-afflicted Aaron Sanchez. He could do so because his last two outings were short affairs due to, you know, not pitching so good. Here he was fine, giving up two runs over five innings. After he left three Toronto relievers pitched four no-hit innings. Russell Martin homered. Justin Smoak walked with the bases loaded.

Indians 6, Reds 2: Josh Tomlin gave up a couple of solo dingers but that’s all he gave up, allowing two runs on four hits over six. Carlos Santana himself hit a couple of solo homers negating all of that. Bradley Zimmer drove in two with a sac fly and an RBI single. The Indians tie up the 2017 Ohio Series 2-2. As we always note, the loser of the series wins Ohio.

Royals 5, Tigers 3: The Royals jumped out to a 3-0 lead but the Tigers tied it up with RBI singles from Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila in the sixth. The Royals put it away in the 12th inning, however, with homers from Sal Perez and Mike Moustakas. This 12-inning game was shorter than the Tigers’ nine inning game on Sunday.

Orioles 5, Rays 0: Kevin Gausman tossed six shutout innings, striking out eight and the bullpen added three shutout innings to close it out. Adam Jones homered. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop turned a nifty double play:

Cardinals 8, Rockies 2: Mike Leake shut out the Rockies for seven innings as his mates scored two in the first, fourth, seventh and eighth for a nice, symmetrical bit of run support. Randal Grichuk, Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham homered for the Redbirds.

Marlins 4, Rangers 0: Adam Conely caught the seven shutout inning bug himself — lot of that going around lately — and Giancarlo Stanton homered twice to tie Aaron Judge for the league lead. He’s on pace for 53 dingers.

Diamondbacks 10, Braves 2: R.A. Dickey‘s flutterball didn’t flutter so good and he was touched for four runs on five hits in three and two-thirds. Braves reliever Matt Wisler gave up four runs on five hits in two innings and he doesn’t have a knuckler to blame. A.J. Pollock did a lot of the touching up, driving in four with a homer and an RBI double and single. Zack Greinke allowed two over eight innings in this non-contest.

Mariners 4, Red Sox 0: James Paxton tossed — you’ll never guess — seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out ten. Kyle Seager hit a solo homer. The Red Sox’ bats are snoozing lately. Boston’s lead in the East is down to two games, but they’re tied with the Yankees in the loss column. It must be Dennis Eckersley’s fault.

Dodgers 6, Twins 4: The Dodgers were down by a run in the eighth when Cody Bellinger launched a three-run homer on an 0-2 pinch to put the score in cement. That made a winner out of Dodgers reliever Edward Paredes, making his major league debut at age 30 after ten years toiling in the minors. Bartolo Colon pitched for the Twins. He wasn’t bad for the 2017 version of him, allowing three runs over five innings. No telling if that buys him another start or if he continues to consider retirement.

Mets 5, Padres 3: Jacob deGrom is one of the few things that has gone right for the Mets this year, and it’s gone really right. He wins his eighth straight start, allowing two runs and striking out eight over eight innings. Wilmer Flores homered and Yoenis Cespedes tripled in a run.

Pirates 10, Giants 3: Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run homer and grounded in a run and Jordy Mercer hit his own three-run shot. Gerrit Cole won for the fifth time in six starts. Both sides took issue with home plate umpire Chris Conroy’s strike zone, with Bruce Bochy and acting manager Dave Righetti getting tossed and with Clint Hurdle acknowledging that it was a tough zone. Bochy kind of cut to the heart of the matter, though, when he said, “. . . but that really had nothing to do with what happened tonight. We gave up three-run homers.” Yup.

Wilson Ramos suffers head injury on Ruben Tejada’s backswing

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Rays catcher Wilson Ramos had to exit Monday night’s game against the Orioles in the fifth inning after suffering a head injury. Ruben Tejada broke his bat on a ground out and the barrel hit Ramos in his helmet. Rich Dubroff reports that Ramos needed six staples to close a laceration on his head.

Ramos will continue to be evaluated under MLB’s concussion protocol. He may wind up on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

Ramos, 29, entered Monday’s action batting .222/.259/.426 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 59 plate appearances. He was 0-for-2 before being replaced by Jesus Sucre.