Top prospect Baty homers for Mets in first big league at-bat

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ATLANTA – What a debut for Brett Baty!

The 22-year-old third baseman became the fifth player in New York Mets history to homer in his first big league at-bat Wednesday night, launching a two-run shot into the right-field seats against the Atlanta Braves.

With a runner aboard and the Mets already up 2-0 in the second inning on back-to-back homers in the opening frame, Baty took a ball from Jake Odorizzi before connecting with a hanging curve.

Ronald Acuna Jr. peeled off, looking to play the ball off the tall brick wall in right, but the 377-foot drive dropped into the seats.

Baty’s mother, father, sister and other relatives who flew in on short notice for the occasion leaped from their seats at Truist Park. Baty was swarmed by his teammates in the dugout.

The last Mets player to homer his first time up in the majors was Mike Jacobs on Aug. 21, 2005, at Washington.

One of the Mets’ top prospects, Baty batted eighth in his major league debut. He took over for Eduardo Escobar, who went on the 10-day injured list with a strained left oblique.

Baty was called up from Syracuse just a week after being promoted to the Triple-A club. Before the game, he insisted he wasn’t thinking about coming up the big leagues this quickly.

“It wasn’t on my mind at all,” Baty said. “I was just thinking about winning ballgames for Syracuse. But now I’m here, so it’s about winning ballgames for the New York Mets.”

Escobar was scratched from the lineup for Tuesday’s game after working out on the field before batting practice. Manager Buck Showalter said Escobar’s injury had taken a turn for the worse and he didn’t want to risk a long-term issue.

The No. 12 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Baty was hitting a combined .315 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs for Double-A Binghamton and Syracuse.

His offensive numbers – especially his power – have greatly improved this season over his first two years in the minors.

“I’m not putting any expectations on myself,” Baty said. “I’m just gonna go out there and play to the best of my ability. I’m here for a reason. I’ll let it show and do my best out there.”

Escobar went on the IL, retroactive to Tuesday, clearing the way for Baty to join the club.

Showalter got a chance to work with Baty in spring training. He challenged the native of Round Rock, Texas, a few times, eager to see how he would react to what the manager coyly called “constructive criticism.”

Baty passed that test.

“I trust the way I play baseball, and I trust myself out on the field,” the rookie said. “They were getting on me, but I was kind of responding.”

Center fielder Brandon Nimmo pulled Baty aside after the team arrived at Truist Park. He knows the highly touted player will be facing intense scrutiny joining a first-place team that’s trying to claim its first division title since 2015.

“Nimmo just took me aside and he was like, `Hey, man, slow it down. It’s gonna be a pretty big atmosphere for sure. But we all trust you out there. We have your back,”‘ Baty said. “That’s what I wanted to hear.”

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 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 the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.