ANAHEIM, Calif. — Aaron Judge hit his 50th home run of the season but Shohei Ohtani also went deep during their MVP showdown, and the Los Angeles Angels held off the slumping New York Yankees 4-3 on Monday night.
The top two candidates for AL MVP both delivered before a sellout crowd that included plenty of Yankees fans. Ohtani broke a 2-all tie in the fifth inning with his 29th homer, a two-run drive to right-center.
Judge connected in the eighth for a 434-foot shot off reliever Ryan Tepera that made it 4-3.
“It’s 50, and it’s August,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s hard to wrap your mind around just how incredible of a season he’s had to this point. The one time they pitch to him he hits it off a rock. It’s really special what he’s doing.”
With his parents in the stands, the California-born slugger became one of 10 players in major league history with multiple 50-homer seasons. Judge smashed 52 long balls in 2017, setting a rookie record that was broken two years later when Pete Alonso hit 53 for the New York Mets.
“It’s just another number,” Judge said.
“It’s great, but I’m kind of upset we lost. It’s a close game we could’ve won.”
The first-place Yankees tried to rally in the ninth, but three-time AL MVP Mike Trout went a long way to make a running catch in deep center on a drive by Oswaldo Cabrera with a runner on first for the final out.
Judge, who received loud “MVP!” chants late in the game, was intentionally walked twice before going deep. He is chasing the single-season Yankees record of 61 home runs established by Roger Maris in 1961.
“I’m not downplaying it,” Judge said. “I don’t like talking numbers.”
New York, which leads the AL East by seven games over Tampa Bay, has lost three in a row – all on the road. The Angels, who have struggled mightily most of the season, have won four straight.
Ohtani, the two-way star and last year’s AL MVP, is doing it all for Los Angeles.
“Of course, it’s important for a player to be able to have a season like this,” he said through a team representative. “I want to be able to keep this pace and continue to play in games.”
Frankie Montas (4-11), obtained in a trade with Oakland at the beginning of the month, allowed three home runs in the loss. He gave up four earned runs and eight hits in six innings.
“I thought I threw the ball pretty good, I just couldn’t keep it in the ballpark,” Montas said.
Anthony Rizzo also connected for New York.
Rizzo, dropped to sixth in the batting order, hit a solo shot to right field to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
The lead didn’t last long as Ford homered in the bottom half to tie it. It was his first of the season.
Ford was signed by the Yankees as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and made his major league debut with the team in 2019.
Rengifo went deep in the second to give the Angels a 1-0 lead. It was his career-best 11th home run of the season.
There were a lot of Yankees fans in attendance, so many that Judge called it a “home away from home” and boos were audible each time the Angels walked him intentionally. But it was a fun atmosphere for Ohtani, too. Even if the MVP chants were for Judge.
“It feels rewarding to be able to play in front of a crowd like this,” Ohtani said. “It doesn’t matter who they are cheering for, I was able to have a lot of fun playing.”
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A BULLPEN
Judge’s home run ball hit off the rock formation well beyond the left-center fence and took a fortunate bounce left toward the bullpens. Judge said someone got him the souvenir ball from one of the bullpens.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
There’s a video that’s gone viral on social media which shows Judge in a batting cage and predicting he’s going to hit 50 home runs. His prediction was right on the number, he just had the wrong year.
“Man, that video is a couple years old,” Judge said. “I was a little late on that one. I missed it whatever year that was, might have been ’19. Like I said, I try not to think about it. The offseason, you can dream. You write down goals and stuff you want to accomplish during the year, but once the season starts you’re out here competing. It’s about trying to lock down as many wins as you can.”
Yankees: RHP Clay Holmes was reinstated from the injured list after recovering from back spasms. He entered with a runner on in the seventh and got three straight outs in his first appearance since Aug. 12. … LHP Nestor Cortes (groin) will throw a bullpen Wednesday and could throw again this weekend at the team’s training facility in Tampa, Florida.
Yankees: RHP Jameson Taillon (12-4, 3.89 ERA) pitched well in Oakland last time out, allowing one earned run in six innings without a walk.
Angels: RHP Mike Mayers (1-1, 4.46) tossed five scoreless innings in his last start at Tampa Bay. He gave up just two hits, but the Angels lost in 11 innings.