Cubs close in on NL Central title, while Rox seek to keep grip on WC spot
By Joe Trezza
A rookie record that has stood for 30 years is on the line every time Aaron Judge steps to the plate. As the final week of Major League Baseball's regular season gets underway, one question will be asked every time Judge's name is announced: Can the Yankees' rookie catch Mark McGwire?
McGwire set a rookie record with 49 home runs in 1987. On Sunday, Judge hit home runs number 47 and 48, putting him in the driver's seat to at least tie the record. Judge's next chance comes Monday at Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees play a makeup game against the Royals at 1:05 pm.
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Judge's pursuit of McGwire highlights a Monday slate full of games with personal and playoff implications. October is near. Here's what to watch for Monday as the season starts to draw to a close. (Times ET)
One day in NYC: KC@NYY, 1:10 p.m.
The single game at Yankee Stadium is a makeup for a postponed game from May 25. But don't think the Yankees won't consider it important. Every day is an opportunity to improve their postseason position, ever since New York clinched at least a Wild Card spot over the weekend.
The Yankees will enter play five games back of the Red Sox in the American League East. The Yankees magic number to clinch home field advantage for the Wild Card Game is two. The Twins, who currently hold the second Wild Card position, are off Monday. The Royals are still technically in the hunt -- they sit 5 1/2 games behind the Twins.
The Royals' Jakob Junis (8-2, 4.05 ERA) will face the Yankees for the first time in his career, while CC Sabathia (12-5, 3.81) toes the rubber for New York.
Weave into the rivalry: CHC@STL 8:15 p.m.
The Cubs' magic number to clinch the National League Central is two over St. Louis and Milwaukee heading into this four-game set with the Cardinals, the final series between the two longtime rivals this year. Chicago has the ability to lock up the division straight out this week, in front of the fans in St. Louis.
The Cardinals could have something to say about that, and on Monday it'll be rookie right-hander Luke Weaver with the opportunity to say the most. Weaver will make his ninth start in what's been a brilliant rookie year -- he's 7-1 with a 2.05 ERA and averaging more than a strikeout per inning (65 K's in 52 2/3 innings). He'll oppose Jon Lester (11-8, 4.56), who will be looking to sharpen up in anticipation of the postseason.
Big fish in the mountains: MIA@COL 8:40 p.m.
Along with the Cardinals, the other NL Wild Card contenders in action are the Rockies, who open a three-game set against the Marlins. This is a gravely important week for Colorado, which is hanging on to the second Wild Card spot. The Rockies currently hold a two-game lead over the Brewers, and lead the Cards by 2 1/2 games.
From the Marlins' point of view, tune in for Giancarlo Stanton. He always puts on a show at Coors Field, and expect his focus to be sharp as he continues to eye the 60-homer plateau. Stanton enters play with 57 home runs. Last August, Stanton belted a home run at Coors Field that Statcast™ projected at 504 feet, the longest ever tracked by Statcast™.
Tyler Chatwood, who is 3-6 with a 5.85 ERA at home, will face Stanton and the Marlins, who send Odrisamer Despaigne to the mound. Despaigne is a career 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA against Colorado.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.