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The Monday Takeaway

To say that Aaron Judge had a tough time hitting major-league pitching in 2016 would be an understatement. In the short time he was with the Yankees last season, he batted .179, struck out half the time (42 in 84 at-bats) and just looked lost at the plate. And when the 2017 season was about to begin, Judge was fighting for a spot in the starting lineup with fellow outfielder and fellow Aaron, Aaron Hicks.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to go with Judge in right field to start the season. PECOTA had Judge hitting 20 home runs over a full season, which would have been a pretty solid output for a rookie outfielder and something the Yankees definitely would have signed up for. Judge had other ideas.

Instead, he's had one of the best seasons ever by a rookie, including setting a new rookie home run record. He entered Monday afternoon’s game needing one to tie Mark McGwire’s record of 49 set back in 1987, and in the third inning against the Royals, Judge matched Big Mac.

Then in the seventh inning, Judge came up to bat against Trevor Cahill and hit a solo home run to break the record with his 50th home run of the season.

His teammates had to force him into taking a curtain call, which he did, reluctantly.

When he came up to bat again in the bottom of the eighth with a chance to hit a third home run, Judge walked. Oh, in case you didn’t know, he has 120 walks this season. And yes, he also struck out earlier in the game; he has 203 of those, but he’s always going to have a lot of strikeouts.

Let’s focus on the home runs because that’s the important thing. Aaron Judge has 50 home runs. Fifty. Let that sink in. A rookie has hit 50 home runs in a season. And look at the company he’s with. The list of Yankees who have hit at least 50 home runs in a season is Babe Ruth (four times), Mickey Mantle (twice), Roger Maris (1961), and Alex Rodriguez (2007). That’s it. Five have done it. He’s one of the five.

What a season, and it’s not over. There are still seven games left. A lot of people tweeted their congratulations and best wishes to Judge, but the best tweet was definitely from wrestling legend The Iron Sheik:

Here are all 50 of Judge’s home runs:

Quick Hits

The Cubs and Cardinals faced off on Monday night. It was a big game for the Cardinals, as a loss would eliminate them from NL Central contention. And the Cubs would inch that much closer to another division title. It didn’t go well for the Cardinals. The Cubs were already leading 4-0 before the Cardinals even came up to bat. And their starter, Luke Weaver, was tagged for eight runs in three innings of work.

In the bottom of the second, Addison Russell tried to make a catch in the stands but got an arm full of cheese sauce instead.

This became a thing very quickly. Nacho man became an immediate sensation and was talked about more than the game itself. Russell delivered nachos to him and Nacho Man took a selfie with him.

Nacho Man was interviewed on the Cubs broadcast. He was interviewed on the Cardinals broadcast. People were asking for his autograph and his picture. After the Cubs’ 10-2 victory, Cubs starter Jon Lester wasn’t very amused by Nacho Man’s notoriety.

Lester pitched well and helped his team eliminate the Cardinals from the division race, which lowered the Cubs' magic number to win the NL Central to one. Nacho Man was just having fun. Of course, if he starts selling Nacho Man t-shirts and charges people for his autographs then you can get mad at him. For now? Lighten up, Jon. Jeez.

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A night after his emotional curtain call at the Rogers Centre, Jose Bautista got run out of his last games in Boston as a Blue Jay when he reacted badly to a strike three call from home plate umpire Chad Fairchild.

Earlier in the game, Bautista was rung up on another strike three he didn’t like, so I guess he had enough of Fairchild’s shenanigans.

Josh Donaldson hit his 31st home run in the top of the first inning to put the Jays up 1-0.

Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz was knocked out of the game after two innings. He gave up five runs on seven hits, including the home run to Donaldson. The Blue Jays would hold on to beat the Red Sox, 6-4 which helped the Yankees in the American League East standings. Boston's magic number is stalled at three.

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A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell returned to action for the first time since kneeling during the National Anthem, which he did again on Monday night. And he got a standing ovation from a number of fans.

A’s starter Daniel Gossett lasted only four innings and gave up seven runs on six hits. He also surrendered four home runs. The first was to Mike Zunino, who clubbed a three-run shot. His 24th of the year.

Then Gossett surrendered a solo shot to Mitch Haniger in the top of the third, which was his 15th of the year.

Yonder Alonso got into the act in the fourth inning. It was his 26th of the year and also of the solo variety.

And in the top of the fifth, after Ben Gamel hit his 26th double of the year, Haniger hit his second home run of the night.

The Mariners went on to win the game, 7-1. Felix Hernandez pitched six innings and gave up a run on two hits. He also walked two batters and struck out two. He picked up his sixth win of the season.

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On August 30, 1987, Rangers catcher Geno Petralli had the not-so-easy task of catching knuckleballer Charlie Hough in a game against the Tigers, and it didn’t go so well. Petralli set a rather embarrassing record that day when he allowed six passed balls and all seven of the Tigers' runs ended up being unearned. Well, on Monday night, against the Astros, the Rangers once again matched that dubious record of allowing seven unearned runs.

This time, it wasn’t a knuckleballer on the mound; it was Andrew Cashner. And the runs didn’t score because of a bunch of passed balls, just a series of unfortunate events—errors by Elvis Andrus and Will Middlebrooks, which added to a big eight-run fourth inning by the Astros. Another unfortunate event, this kerfuffle in the second inning when Collin McHugh threw a little too close to Carlos Gomez.

Apparently there’s a history of bad blood between the two and Gomez believes that McHugh threw at him. He told reporters as much after the game.

One fortunate event for the Rangers was Joey Gallo’s 39th home run:

He hits the ball hard and he hits the ball far. The Astros won, 11-2.

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Defensive Play of the Day

Carlos Correa, not to be confused with Carlos Beltran—the play-by-play guy actually did that in this video clip—made a great play to get Elvis Andrus at first.

What To Watch on Tuesday

The Red Sox will look to Chris Sale to inch them closer to the American League East crown, while the Blue Jays, playing the role of spoiler, will counter with J.A. Happ (7:10 pm ET).

In the battle for Texas, Dallas Keuchel will be facing off against Cole Hamels in Arlington. This game should be a fun one to watch because it’s a good pitching matchup on paper and because of Monday night’s benches-clearing fireworks (8:05 pm ET).

And on the west coast, Matt Moore and Robbie Ray are pitching against each other in a battle of alliterative names. The game doesn’t really matter because the Giants are bad and the Diamondbacks are set as the first Wild Card, and will be hosting the NL Wild Card game, but I thought it was cool that the pitchers initials are MM and RR (9:40 pm ET).