Xander Bogaerts could prevent Aaron Judge’s Triple Crown

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees bats during the 6th inning of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Yankee Stadium on September 20, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees bats during the 6th inning of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Yankee Stadium on September 20, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox can keep Aaron Judge from Triple Crown glory

Capturing the Triple Crown would effectively eliminate any doubt that Aaron Judge is this year’s American League MVP.

The hitter’s Triple Crown is a rarity only seen 17 times, and not since 2012. To win the Triple Crown, a player must lead the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Judge currently leads the AL in batting average and all of MLB in home runs and RBI, among other non-Triple Crown-related metrics.

Judge is already on the verge of a historic season. He’s hit 60 home runs, a staggering 20 more than anyone else in the majors, and one more round-tripper would tie Roger Maris for the AL single-season record. Another one after that could cement his legacy as the home-run king in the minds of those who wish to ignore those tainted by PED scandals. His 128 RBI also gives Judge a comfortable lead among AL leaders.

With two of the three categories essentially locked up, Judge’s chances of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera in 2012 will come down to the batting title race.

The Boston Red Sox, specifically Xander Bogaerts, could ruin it for him.

Minnesota’s Luis Arraez (.313) led the league prior to an 0-for-6 skid in his last two games and is still firmly in the race, but Bogaerts now has the best chance to stop Judge from winning the batting title. On Thursday night, the Red Sox will be in the Bronx for four games, and coming into this final Rivalry series of the season, Bogaerts and Judge are technically tied for the league lead, both hitting .317, though they are separated by a small fraction of a point.

According to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe (subscription required), the affable Bogaerts is ready to embrace the villain role during this trip to New York where he’ll attempt to steal the batting title from Judge:

"“They’d hate me even more [in New York],” Bogaerts chuckled of the possibility of denying Judge the second Triple Crown in the last 55 years. “I wonder if I get a base hit, if they’ll boo me? They’ll probably throw me tough. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be easy. But I enjoy the challenge. I really do. It’s something that gets you waking up on the way to the ballpark.”"

Bogaerts enters the series in excellent form, hitting .377 in September with multiple hits in 12 of his last 19 games, but he doesn’t have a great track record at Yankee Stadium. In 76 regular-season games in enemy territory, he’s hit .250. However, he’s 7-for-21 (.333) in six games there this season.

While he’s been better at home this season (.323), Bogaerts still sports a strong .307 average on the road. It’s the power that has been the biggest difference in his splits, as his slugging percentage falls from .513 at home to .426 on the road. Pulling the ball to right field in Yankee Stadium won’t lead to the same results that he’s accustomed to at Fenway, where he can smack doubles off the Green Monster. Bogaerts doesn’t need extra-base hits to boost his average though, spraying the ball to all fields for singles can still get the job done.

Even if Bogaerts stays hot, the Red Sox pitching staff still needs to find a way to cool off Judge. The Yankees star has produced an insane .475 average in September and he’s riding an 11-game hitting streak, which included a two-homer game at Fenway Park last week.

Judge’s home/road splits are nearly identical with exactly half of his home runs being collected at Yankee Stadium. He’s hitting .315 at home compared to .317 on the road. It’s a minuscule difference that essentially means Judge can hit anywhere but at least it doesn’t appear that being at home will give him a significant advantage.

Judge historically had been tamed by Red Sox pitching throughout his career but that hasn’t been the case this season. He’s hitting .309 with a 1.042 OPS and five home runs in 14 games against Boston. When these teams met at Fenway Park last week, Judge went 4-for-8 with the aforementioned two-homer game.

If the Red Sox are going to contain Judge, they have the right man on the mound to kick off this series. Judge is 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts against Thursday’s starter Michael Wacha.

Unfortunately, Boston’s projected starter for Friday’s game is Nick Pivetta, whom Judge has terrorized in the past, hitting 5-for-11 (.455) with a pair of homers. Rich Hill and Brayan Bello have limited sample sizes against him, but Judge is a combined 3-for-6 against these Red Sox starters. Judge is also a threat to strike against Boston’s undermanned bullpen, which is missing Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock.

Boston’s pitching staff has allowed a .250 batting average this season, tied for the sixth-highest in the majors, per FanGraphs, so the Red Sox aren’t exactly equipped to limit such a scalding bat. Pitching around him doesn’t help their cause much, either. Sox pitchers need to get Judge out in order to drop his average and give Xander a chance to take control of this race.

After the conclusion of this series, the Red Sox have only 10 regular season games remaining. If Bogaerts can pull ahead in the batting title race over these next four games against the Yankees, he’ll be in prime position to earn his first batting title, thwarting Judge’s Triple Crown efforts.

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