New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge had to sit in the dugout with a toe injury as Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles completed a series sweep Wednesday. But even as Ohtani continues to pursue Judge’s American League single-season home run record, Judge embraces the excitement of the chase.

“Records are meant to be broken. It’s just a record. It would be exciting for the game if he went out there and got 63-plus. So, we’ll see what happens,” Judge said before the game Wednesday, a 7-3 loss for the Yanks.

In 2022, Judge seemed to do the only thing anyone could have done to wrestle AL MVP honors away from Ohtani, the two-way phenom who ranked as one of the best players in baseball on the mound and at the plate. In response, Judge hit 62 home runs, breaking Roger Maris’ decades-old single-season record of 61, and almost singlehandedly led the Yankees to the postseason. This season, however, he hasn’t been able to play since early June, and Ohtani has taken the opportunity to retaliate.

Through 95 games, Ohtani is batting .306 with 35 home runs, leading the league by a wide margin and keeping him on pace with the record Judge set just last season. In a near-afterthought, he also has a 7-5 record on the mound with a 3.50 ERA and 139 strikeouts. If he remains healthy, he is almost certain to win his second MVP in three seasons and will enter free agency at the end of the season as the most highly sought-after player in the history of Major League Baseball.


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“Physically, even like Shohei he can hit 100 home runs, 80 home runs,” Judge said. “He’s got that type of talent just like so many other guys in this league, But it’s moments like that, it’s about just mentally being able to block out the noise or lack of noise in those moments.”

While the Angels try to get into playoff contention (and woo Ohtani to re-sign in the process), the Yankees felt Judge’s absence almost immediately and have struggled since. The Angels’ sweep at home this week put them above .500 for the first time since May, while a 1-5 West Coast road trip sent New York to the bottom of the AL East with a 50-47 record.

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