Judge hits 50th, Ohtani also goes deep as Angels edge Yankees

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY
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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.”

Angels starter Jose Suarez (5-6) held the Yankees to two runs and three hits in six innings. Jimmy Herget got two outs for his fourth save.

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.

Luis Rengifo and ex-Yankee Mike Ford homered for the Angels along with Ohtani.

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.

DJ LeMahieu used a sacrifice bunt – his first since 2019 – to bring in Isiah Kiner-Falefa with the tying run in the third. Kiner-Falefa drew a walk to start the inning.

CROWD CONTROL

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.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

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.

Angels: RHP Michael Lorenzen (right shoulder strain) said he feels 100% after a 70-pitch rehab start but might have another one. . INF Matt Duffy (lower back) was reinstated from the injured list.

UP NEXT

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.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.