(AP) – Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols could make this a milestone week for home runs.
Judge hit two more Sunday, raising his season total to 59, two shy of Roger Maris’ American League record. Now the slugger returns to Yankee Stadium, where New York plays its next six games. Pujols, meanwhile, is somewhat improbably closing in on the 700-homer mark after hitting 12 since the start of August.
Judge’s pursuit of Maris has stirred debate over how to put this AL record in context, should he break it. He’s unlikely to threaten Barry Bonds’ major league record of 73, but that mark, as well as the exploits of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa around the same time, have become complicated by performance-enhancing drug suspicions.
There’s one way in which Judge likely will surpass both Bonds and Maris, no matter how many more homers he hits. Right now, he has an incredible 20-homer lead over Kyle Schwarber, who is second in the majors. Nobody has led baseball in homers by at least 20 since Babe Ruth finished with 54 in 1928 and nobody else had more than 31.
Maris led the majors by only seven when he hit 61, and Bonds led by nine when he hit 73.
Judge is also in the mix for the AL Triple Crown — he’s leading big in homers and RBIs and just one point behind batting leader Luis Arraez — but that won’t sort itself out until closer to the end of the season.
The 42-year-old Pujols, who is retiring at the end of the season, is trying to become the fourth major leaguer to reach 700 homers, following Bonds, Hank Aaron and Ruth. Unlike Judge, he won’t be going for his milestone at home this week. St. Louis’ next eight games are on the road against the Padres, Dodgers and Brewers.