Judge connects again, hits MLB-best 54th HR, Yankees top Twins

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NEW YORK — Aaron Judge kept up his bruising pace and hit his major league-leading 54th home run, connecting for the third straight day and sending the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins 5-2 on Monday.

Judge has homered in five of his last seven games for the AL East leaders. He snapped a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning when he hit a 3-1 slider from Trevor Megill (3-2) into the second deck in left.

“It’s getting hard to put into words what he’s doing,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Just a special season he’s in the midst of.”

The All-Star slugger reached 54 homers in his 131st game. He is on pace to hit 65 homers, four more than Roger Maris’ AL record in 1961. Judge has continued to play down his pursuit of history.

“Just trying to do what I can every single day,” Judge said. “I show up to work, prepared ready to go and do whatever it takes to help our team what it takes to get a win today. Whether it’s moving a guy over, driving a guy in, making a play on defense, that’s what I’m focused on.”

Judge reached 54 homers in New York’s 135th game; Maris hit his 54th when he connected off Washington’s Tom Cheney in New York’s 139th game on Sept. 6, 1961.

“I’m paying close attention to it. How could you not?” Boone said, adding, “it’d be pretty amazing.”

It was the ninth time in his career Judge homered in three straight games and third time this season.

Judge also doubled. His latest homer came after Gary Sanchez hit a 473-foot, two-run drive into the left field bleachers off Jameson Taillon in the fifth that tied it at 2.

Judge ended the game 18 homers ahead of Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber for the major league lead. He is 23 ahead of Houston’s Yordan Alvarez in the AL.

“Right now, especially the season he’s having, he’s always been a very good player, better than that even,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “This season he’s been as good of a player as any us of have seen in a long time.”

Sanchez tied the game by hitting for his 14th homer since the Yankees traded him along with Gio Urshela to Minnesota for Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt on March 13.

After connecting, Sanchez watched the ball soar into the stands, dropped his bat and ran around the bases as some of his teammates pounded on the dugout rail.

Marwin Gonzalez also homered for the Yankees, ending a 0-for-29 skid with his first hit since July 6. Kiner-Falefa added his second homer this year in the seventh.

“It’s hard for me to just hit one,” Kiner-Falefa said of Judge. “For him to do what he’s been doing but still have base hits and contribute in other ways with walks, especially when guys don’t want to pitch to him, I think that’s what makes it so impressive.”

Greg Weissert (2-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings.

Clay Holmes pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 19th save.

Judge scored in the first when he doubled and scored on Donaldson’s single off the base of the left field wall. Judge scored just before Donaldson was tagged out at second after appearing to think he had homered.

New York went up 2-0 when Gonzalez hit a slider into the right field seats in the third.

FOR STARTERS

Taillon allowed two runs and six hits in five innings. Three of those came in the fifth inning and he was aided by rookie RF Oswaldo Cabrera‘s fourth career outfield assist when Miranda was thrown out trying to stretch his single in the fifth.

Taillon pitched for the first time since exiting in the second inning Tuesday against the Angels when he took a comebacker off the forearm.

Minnesota’s Chris Archer allowed two runs and four hits in five innings and is winless in his last 10 starts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: RF Max Kepler (hip tightness) was a late scratch. He struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. .RHP Sonny Gray (right hamstring tightness) will throw his bullpen session Tuesday and his next start is being pushed back to Thursday’s series finale in New York

Yankees: DH Giancarlo Stanton was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth after fouling a ball off his left foot in the sixth. Stanton grimaced and was unable to put any weight on his left foot. Boone said he’s not sure whether Stanton will be available for Tuesday night’s game. . LF Andrew Benintendi will have surgery on Tuesday after breaking a bone in his right wrist during a swing Friday night. Boone said Benintendi, acquired from Kansas City in late July, could play again this season. “I think the possibility of him returning is still in play,” Boone said. . 1B Anthony Rizzo (lower back) is expected to resume baseball activities Wednesday. Rizzo was originally scheduled to resume baseball activities Monday but experienced headaches as a side effect from an epidural shot. . LHP Aroldis Chapman (leg infection) may throw a bullpen session this week. . OF Harrison Bader (right foot plantar fasciitis) hit in the cage and could begin a rehab stint next week.

UP NEXT

Minnesota RHP Joe Ryan (10-7, 3.88 ERA) opposes New York RHP Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.28) on Tuesday. Cole allowed a career-high five homers in 2 1/3 innings June 9 in Minnesota.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closed out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).