Big day has Yan­kees’ minds on catch­ing up to Red Sox

Judge, Sanchez get two homers each vs. Rangers

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - MLB REPORT - Pete Caldera @pcaldera USA TO­DAY Sports

Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge took turns on Sept. 10 blast­ing base­balls to dis­tant parts of Globe Life Ball­park — a launch­ing pad for the New York Yan­kees’ late push to­ward Oc­to­ber.

Cap­tur­ing the AL East has been “our goal from Day One,” Judge said af­ter the Yan­kees’ 16-7 win against the Rangers. “We keep play­ing our game, good things will hap­pen and we’ll be where want to be.”

Boosted by two homers apiece – Nos. 29 and 30 for Sanchez, Nos. 40 and 41 for Judge – the Yan­kees moved to within 31⁄ games of the first-place Bos­ton Red Sox, while holding a 31⁄ game wild-card lead on the Min­nesota Twins.

And then the Yan­kees ar­rived back in New York for 17 of their final 20 games.

“Ab­so­lutely, we can catch up to the Red Sox,” out­fielder Brett Gard­ner said. The ri­vals don’t have any head-to-head game re­main­ing, but “I re­ally don’t worry about they’re do­ing, I worry about what we do.

“And I feel like if we play the best base­ball we’re ca­pa­ble of play­ing, then we’ll catch them.’’

The Yanks’ as­sault on the Texas bullpen came with some his­toric num­bers at­tached.

With his solo shot in the fourth, Judge be­came the sec­ond rookie in ma­jor league his­tory to hit at least 40 homers in a sea­son, since Mark McGwire’s 49 in 1989.

Judge also joined Mickey Man­tle, Joe DiMag­gio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth as the only Yan­kees to reach 40 home runs in their age-25 sea­son or younger.

“Never as a kid would I think I’d be in the same sen­tence with those guys, so it’s quite an honor,’’ Judge said. “Pretty hum­bling.”

And that was be­fore he sent No. 41 an es­ti­mated 463 feet, into the Yanks’ bullpen, to com­plete a three-RBI day.

Judge had al­ready es­tab­lished a new ma­jor league rookie record with his sec­ond-in­ning walk, No. 107 on the year – break­ing a 75year-old mark set by Cleve­land’s Les Flem­ing in 1942.

That “any­thing-I-can-to-geton-base’’ ap­proach kept Judge chan­neled dur­ing his sec­ond-half slide and im­pressed the likes of Sanchez, who didn’t truly get hot un­til Au­gust.

As for reach­ing 30 homers af­ter miss­ing a month ear­lier this year be­cause a bi­ceps strain, “it’s nice, but you can’t re­ally fo­cus on that stuff too much,’’ said Sanchez, whose eighth-in­ning solo blast to cen­ter was mea­sured at 461 feet.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble when you look at what these kids have done,’’ man­ager Joe Gi­rardi said of the com­bined 71 homers by Judge and Sanchez.

All that power and an 18-hit at­tack – the most hits and runs by the Yanks (77-65) all sea­son – gave Gi­rardi’s club its third con­sec­u­tive se­ries win fol­low­ing a three-game sweep by crazy-hot Cleve­land In­di­ans.

And with six se­ries left it’s about con­tin­u­ing a trend.

“Win­ning se­ries,’’ Gi­rardi said. “If we want to ac­com­plish what we want to ac­com­plish, we need to do that.’’

Caldera writes for The (Ber­gen County, N.J.) Record, part of the USA TO­DAY Net­work.


Yan­kees right fielder Aaron Judge hit his 40th and 41st home runs on Sun­day, leav­ing him eight be­hind the rookie record.

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