Aaron Judge is one step closer to the American League's single-season home run record, and the New York Yankees are one step closer to the largest blown division lead in baseball history. Judge swatted his 52nd home run Saturday night, though the Yankees lost to the Tampa Bay Rays to trim their AL East lead to four games. It was once 15 1/2 games.
Here is Judge's career-high-tying 52nd home run. The AL single season record is of course 61 homers by Roger Maris in 1961. Judge needs 10 homers in New York's final 29 games.
These days Judge is a one-man army. The Yankees had three hits Saturday -- a Giancarlo Stanton bloop single plus the homer and a line drive single by Judge -- and Judge's ninth inning homer snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak. They've scored three runs in their last 32 innings overall. Judge is playing at an MVP pace and he's getting no help at all.
Yankees: 13th game with 3 hits or fewer this season.— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) September 4, 2022
The only team with more is the Tigers (15).
As for the AL East lead, it has indeed been whittled down from 15 1/2 games to only four games, the smallest it's been since May 11. At this point Tampa Bay, the second-place team in the AL East, controls their destiny. They have four games remaining with the Yankees. Win those, match New York in non-head-to-head games, and Tampa wins the division.
The largest blown division lead in baseball history is 13 games by the 1951 Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees famously erased a 14-game deficit in 1978, though they were in fourth place at the time. The Boston Red Sox never led the division by more than 10 games that season.
The Yankees peaked at 61-23 (.726) on July 8. They are 18-31 (.367) since then, and they went 10-18 (.357) in August. It was New York's worst month since going 9-19 (.321) in Sept. 1991.
Saturday's games dropped the Yankees to 79-54 and improved the Rays to 74-57 on the season. The Yankees are eight games up on a postseason spot in general. The Rays sit in the top wild-card spot.