Saturday, August 13, 2022

MLB weekend recap: Phillies, Guardians make moves in wild-card standings; Aaron Judge keeps crushing

The dog days of summer have arrived and the MLB trade deadline is only two days, so expect the next few days to be very busy in the world of baseball. Let’s dive into what you need to know about this weekend’s action.

Highlight of the weekend: Judge reaches 200 career homers

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, the current AL MVP favorite, had himself quite a weekend against the Royals. Judge went 6 for 14 with four home runs in the four-game set, including hitting two homers and robbing a homer Friday night. Saturday afternoon Judge socked his 200th career home run in his 671st career game. Only Ryan Howard (658) got to 200 homers in fewer games.

Judge is 17 for 42 (.405) with nine home runs in 11 games since the All-Star break and he’s hit 12 home runs in his last 15 games. He has 42 home runs this season. No other player has more than 33, and Kyle Schwarber (33) and Yordan Alvarez (30) are the only other players with at least 30 homers. We are officially on 60 homers watch with Judge.

“I try not to, but people keep asking me that question,” Judge told our Matt Snyder at the All-Star Game when asked about possibly hitting 60 home runs. “I might have a better answer at the end of the year if it happens. If I get to that point, we can talk about it. Until then, it’s just so hard. We’re only halfway through. Only being halfway there, it’s tough to talk about.”

Judge has 42 home runs through 103 team games, so he needs to sock 18 homers in the team’s final 59 games to get to 60. The American League single-season record is 61 homers by Roger Maris with the 1961 Yankees. The AL record for a right-handed hitter is 58 homers by Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx (1932 Athletics) and Hank Greenberg (1939 Tigers). Judge has a real chance to match or beat Foxx and Greenberg, if not Maris.

Guardians gain ground in wild-card race

The Guardians and Rays played a very important series in Tampa this weekend. Going into Friday’s opener the Rays sat in the third and final American League wild-card spot, and the Guardians were 2 1/2 games behind them. Thanks to Sunday’s rubber game win, Cleveland has cut that lead to 1 1/2 games. A loss Sunday would’ve knocked them to 3 1/2 games back.

AL Cy Young candidate Shane McClanahan had his worst start of the season Sunday, getting tagged for a season-high five runs in a season-low-tying 4 1/3 innings. Only once in his first 19 starts did McClanahan allow even four runs in a game.

Although Sunday’s win brought the Guardians a game closer in the wild-card race, the AL Central title is still there for the taking. 

Phillies sweep to open wild-card lead

Thanks to this weekend’s four-game sweep of the Pirates, the Phillies have opened a one-game lead over the Cardinals for the third and final National League wild-card spot. Philadelphia has won five straight games overall while outscoring opponents 29-14 in the five games. Aaron Nola dominated for six innings Saturday and the Phillies went 6 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

The Phillies have the NL’s longest postseason drought — Placido Polanco was on the last Phillies team that played in October — and there is every reason to believe president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will add at the trade deadline. Being aggressive and trading prospects is his M.O. when his team is in the hunt, and their play this weekend puts them firmly in the hunt.

Outman hits one out, man

Welcome to the big leagues, James Outman. Called up to replace the traded Zach McKinstry, Outman swatted a home run in his first MLB at-bat Sunday. He’s the eighth player in Dodgers history to go deep in his first at-bat and the first since Keibert Ruiz in 2020.

MLB.com ranks Outman the No. 17 prospect in L.A.’s farm, calling him “one of the best athletes in the system.” The 25-year-old former seventh-round pick slashed .279/381/.534 with 21 home runs in 90 games split between Double-A and Triple-A before being called up to the big leagues for the first time earlier this weekend.

On deck

The trade deadline: The 2022 MLB trade deadline is 6 p.m. ET Tuesday and we’ve already seen several significant trades (Luis Castillo to the Mariners, Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees). Juan Soto, Frankie Montas, and Willson Contreras are the biggest names who could be moved prior to the deadline, though obviously some are more likely to move than others. Here is our trade tracker and here are our top 30 trade candidates.

Jacob deGrom’s return: For the first time in over a calendar year, deGrom will make a start for the Mets on Tuesday. He missed the first four months of the season with a stress reaction in his shoulder, but his rehab work is complete, and he’s ready to pair up with Max Scherzer for the stretch run. DeGrom’s season debut will be against the Nationals in Washington.

“Definitely excited. It’s been a long time. This has been a pretty slow process of coming back, so excited to be out there,” deGrom told SNY on Sunday. “I’m ready to help these guys win. The ultimate goal is to win a World Series. Watching these guys go out there and compete has been fun, but it’s a lot more fun to go out there and compete with them.”  

Mariners at Yankees (3 games): Castillo is expected to make his Mariners debut against Benintendi’s Yankees either Tuesday or Wednesday. Also, this series will not feature AL Rookie of the Year favorite Julio Rodríguez. He took a pitch to the wrist area Saturday and is now on the injured list. No AL MVP frontrunner vs. AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner matchup this week. Too bad. Maybe next week when Judge’s Yankees visit Rodríguez’s Mariners.

Cubs at Cardinals (3 games) and Dodgers at Giants (4 games): Two series featuring historic rivals, though they admittedly lose a little luster given the standings. The Cardinals are in the thick of the wild-card race (and aren’t out of the NL Central race) and the Dodgers have a comfortable lead in the NL West. The Giants are fading, and the Cubs are pretty far out of the race. Still, rivalries are fun.

Braves at Mets (5 games): The two best teams in the NL East will play five games in four days next weekend. They have another four-game series on tap in mid-August too. The Mets and Braves will play each other nine times in a 14-game span beginning Thursday. Those nine games could determine whether he have a tight NL East race into September, or the Mets (or Braves!) run away with it. Should be a blast.

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