MLB Weekend Recap: Phillies, Guardians Move in Wildcard Scoring; Aaron Judge keeps crushing

The dog days of summer are here and the MLB trade deadline is down to 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.

Weekend Highlight: Judge hits 200 career homers

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

Judge is 17-for-42 (.405) with nine home runs in 11 games since the All-Star break and he has 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’re officially on 60 Homer Watch with Judge.

“I don’t try, but people keep asking me that question.” That’s what the judge told our Matt Snyder at the All-Star Game when asked if he might hit 60 home runs. “I might have a better answer by the end of the year if it happens. When I get to that point we can talk about it. It’s just so hard until then. We’re only halfway there. Just being halfway there, it’s hard to talk about.”

Judge has 42 home runs in 103 team games, so he needs to hit 18 home runs in the team’s last 59 games to get to 60. The American League single-season record is 61 home runs by Roger Maris with the Yankees in 1961. The AL record for a right-hander is 58 home runs by Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx (1932 Athletics) and Hank Greenberg (1939 Tigers) . Judge has a real shot at surpassing or beating Foxx and Greenberg, if not Maris.

Guardians are gaining ground in the wildcard race

The Guardians and Rays played a very important series in Tampa this weekend. Before Friday’s opener, the Rays sat in the third and final wildcard spot in the American League, and the Guardians were 2 1/2 games behind them. Thanks to Sunday’s rubber game win, Cleveland cut that lead to 1 1/2 games. A loss on Sunday would have dropped them to 3 1/2 games.

AL Cy Young contestant Shane McClanahan had his worst start to the season on Sunday when he was tagged for five runs with a season high at a season low of 4 1/3 innings. Only once in his first 19 starts did McClanahan even allow four runs in a game.

Although Sunday’s victory brought the Guardians a game closer in the wildcard race, the AL Central title is still up for grabs.

Phillies sweep to open wildcard lead

Thanks to the Pirates’ four-game win this weekend, the Phillies have a one-game lead over the Cardinals for the third and final wildcard spot in the National League. Philadelphia has won a total of five games in a row, beating their opponents 29-14 in the five games. Aaron Nola dominated for six innings on Saturday and the Phillies went 6 to 10 with runners in goal position.

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

Outman knocks you out, man

Welcome to the big leagues, James Outman. Called to replace the traded Zach McKinstry, Outman hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat Sunday. He is 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 #17 on LA’s farm, calling him “one of the best athletes in the system.” The 25-year-old former seven-round pick hit .279/381/.534 with 21 homers in 90 games, split between Double-A and Triple-A, before earning his first major league call-up earlier this weekend.

On board

The trading period: The 2022 MLB trade deadline is Tuesday, 6:00 p.m. ET and we have 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 move before the deadline, although some are obviously more likely to move than others. Here is our trade tracker and Here are our top 30 trading candidates.

Jacob deGrom’s return: For the first time in over a calendar year deGrom will 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 team up with Max Scherzer for the stretch run. DeGrom’s season debut comes against the Nationals in Washington.

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

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

Cubs at Cardinals (3 games) and Dodgers at Giants (4 games): Two series with historical rivals, although admittedly they lose some of their luster given the rating. The Cardinals are deep in the wildcard 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. Rivalries are still fun.

Braves at Mets (5 games): The two best teams in NL Ost will play five games in four days this coming weekend. They also have another four-game series on sale in mid-August. The Mets and Braves will play each other nine times in 14 games starting Thursday. Those nine games could determine if he has a tight NL East race into September or if the Mets (or Braves!) run away with it. Should be a blast.

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