New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge gave the Angels a not-so-subtle reminder of why his American League most valuable player campaign cannot be overlooked because of Shohei Ohtani.
In the second game of the latest three-game battle between AL MVP frontrunners, it was Judge whose home run turned the Angels’ chance of catching up into a far-fetched one.
In the fourth inning, with two on and two outs, Judge took Mike Mayers’ 1-and-2, four-seam fastball over the right-center-field wall. Judge’s 51st home run opened a five-run lead in the Yankees’ eventual 7-4 win, and closed the gap in his chase of Roger Maris’ AL home run record (61, set in 1961).
“That’s just what he does,” interim Angels manager Phil Nevin, the former third base coach for the Yankees, said after the game. “It’s why he’s in that discussion.”
Judge finished three for five with two runs scored. Ohtani went two for four, including a double off reliever Wandy Peralta in the ninth inning, striking out twice.
Mayers, making his second straight start after a career of pitching mostly out of the bullpen, gave up two early, solo home runs — the first to Andrew Benintendi, which got the Yankees on the scoreboard first, and the second to Anthony Rizzo, which pushed New York’s lead to 2-0 in the second inning.
“Two solo home runs on pitches I want back and one of the best hitters in the league on a pitch,” Mayers said. “I thought that was our shot to getting him out and he put a good swing on it.
“They get paid to hit just like we get paid to pitch and they were better.”
The Angels tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Mike Ford got the team’s first hit of the night off Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon, and Max Stassi followed with a two-run home run.
A costly error in the third allowed the Yankees to once again take a two-run lead.
Mayers loaded the bases after walking DJ LeMahieu and Rizzo and giving up a single to Judge. Josh Donaldson hit a grounder to third baseman Luis Rengifo, who successfully smothered the ball in the dirt with his body, then got up and threw to first. But his throw was a little off and Ford just missed making the catch, as two runs scored. Rengifo was charged with an error.
In the fifth inning, following Judge’s three-run blast, Ford hit a solo home run off of Yankees reliever Lucas Leutge that decreased the Angels deficit to 7-3. It was his second home run in as many games — and since the Yankees traded him in June 2021.
The Angels made some noise in the ninth. After Ohtani’s double, Taylor Ward hit a single to right, and Oswaldo Peralta could not make the catch, and Ohtani was able to score.
Entering Tuesday, the Angels had played spoiler in winning four games in a row.
They swept the Toronto Blue Jays, who are in the mix for an AL wild-card spot, over the weekend, though the impact wasn’t much; a few percentage points of a drop in Toronto’s odds of actually clinching a wild card. Then the Angels beat the AL East-leading Yankees on Monday.
“Obviously the past couple of months have been a little bit rough, but the mindset’s always been to go out, no matter who the team is, and just compete,” Angels pitcher Reid Detmers said before the game. “It doesn’t really matter who’s out there.”
For some, beating teams that are in the playoff picture livens up the remaining schedule.
“I don’t know if we’re officially out of it or not, but I know other teams are in it,” Ward said. “So yeah, anytime that you can spoil their party, that’s definitely what you want.”
Added reliever Aaron Loup: “If you can’t win it, you might as well play spoiler. At least gives us something to do while we’re down here not playing for much.”
Jared Walsh, whose season ended when he was put on the 60-day injured list on Aug. 25 because of thoracic outlet syndrome, said on Monday that the injury is one he’s been dealing with for a few years. When symptoms have flared up in the past, he’s been able to rehab without needing surgery to fix the problem. Surgery has not yet been ruled out this time around. Thoracic outlet syndrome typically is an injury seen in pitchers. Walsh did not rule out the possibility that he could have initially developed the issue when he was still a pitcher in the minor leagues. … Starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen (right shoulder stain) will get another rehab start before coming off the injured list, Nevin said before Tuesday’s game. The goal is for Lorenzen to get his pitch count into the 90s. Lorenzen has been on the IL since July 7.