MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An already historic season by New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge could well be crowned with baseball’s first Triple Crown in 10 years.
Minnesota’s Luis Arraez stands in his way.
After going 2-for-5 for the Twins on Thursday in their loss to the Chicago White Sox, Arraez edged Judge by two runs — on the roundup — in the AL batting run. The Yankees were gone.
With a week remaining in the regular season, Arraez’s average is .3147, Judge is at .3134 and Boston’s Xander Bogaerts is third at .3088. The Yankees have seven games left to play, including six each for the Twins and Red Sox.
With 61 homers — which matched the much-watched AL record on Wednesday — and 130 RBIs, Judge locked those two categories.
Batting average will be harder to come by, thanks to Arraez. Miguel Cabrera last achieved the Triple Crown feat for Detroit in 2012. Prior to that, Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski was the previous to do so in 1967.
“No pressure. But I’m just trying to hit the ball, trying to get the barrel there,” Arraez, a fourth-year infielder, said Wednesday. I just need to trust myself and go out there and play hard.”
With real-time stats watching him from Target Field’s giant scoreboard or on the iPad when watching video of his batsmen, Arraez can’t help but keep up with the competition. But he did his best not to think about it too much.
“I just need to enjoy the game and finish strong,” said Arraez, who played mostly first base, second base and designated hitter and was selected for his first All-Star Game this year.
The Twins, who pulled out of the playoffs with a rocky start to the month, relished the opportunity to see one of their most popular players work his craft over time.
“I think he’s come to a point of calm and he’s come to a point where he’s just worried about going out there and trying to hit a few lines,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Arraez hit 0.362 on June 21, 0.342 on July 23, and 0.336 on August 16. His powerfully compact and consistent swing and the ability and willingness to spray the ball all over the court have evoked memories of Rod Carew among Twins fans and the organization.
Carew won seven batting titles for the Twins, who also had Tony Oliva (three), Joe Mauer (three) and Kirby Puckett (one) leading the AL in average.
“I think he’s going to have a lot of opportunities in his career over the years that he’s fighting for this great honour,” Baldelli said.
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