Stanton chasing 60-HR mark, RBI crown; Blackmon, Dee have stat titles in sight
By Manny Randhawa
We've reached the final day of an incredible MLB regular season, with a record-setting winning streak by the Cleveland Indians, home run history with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and the race to the postseason among a myriad of highlights. With the Rockies clinching the second National League Wild Card spot on Saturday, the field is set for the 2017 postseason. But there's still much at stake today.
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Stanton plays in his final game of 2017, one home run shy of 60 for the season. Should he reach that milestone, he would be the sixth player in MLB history to do so. Stanton (131 RBIs) also will try to finish the season as the MLB RBI leader, ahead of the Rockies' Nolan Arenado by one headed into today.
Judge, the Yankees slugger who has already set an MLB rookie record with 52 homers, can add to that lead as he completes one of the greatest rookie campaigns in baseball history.
The National League batting average and stolen-base titles will also be decided. As the Rockies host the Dodgers at Coors Field, Charlie Blackmon and Justin Turner enter the game first and second, respectively, in the race for the NL batting average crown. And the Marlins' Dee Gordon enters the day with 60 steals, just one more than second-place Billy Hamilton of the Reds for the MLB lead.
Stanton leads off, one smash from the 60-home run club
Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters following Miami's 10-2 win over the Braves on Saturday, that Stanton will bat leadoff today at Marlins Park. This would ensure Stanton gets the most possible plate appearances as he seeks his 60th homer of 2017. Stanton has three career plate appearances out of the leadoff spot, going 0-for-2 with a walk.
Stanton will be facing Braves rookie left-hander Max Fried, against whom he has homered this season in two at-bats, a 456-foot shot to left-center field at SunTrust Park on Sept. 9.
Should Stanton hit his 60th homer on Sunday, he would join Babe Ruth (60 in 1927), Roger Maris (61 in 1961), Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 63 in '99, 64 in 2001), Mark McGwire (70 in 1998, 65 in '99) and Barry Bonds (73 in 2001) as the only players to ever reach that total in a season.
With 26 home runs at the All-Star break, Stanton went on a tear when the season's second half began, hitting 18 home runs over a 27-game span from July 17 to Aug. 15. He hit 18 homers in August, tying an MLB record for homers in that calendar month.
While he hasn't hit as many homers in September (eight), Stanton has hit more homers this month with a Statcast-projected exit velocity greater than 115 mph than any other month this season (seven). That includes his 59th homer, which is his hardest-hit home run of the season, at 118.7 mph with a projected distance of 467 feet, on Thursday at Marlins Park.
Blackmon looks to wrap up NL batting average title
Entering play today, Blackmon leads the NL with a .330 batting average to Turner's .321. It would take an 0-for-6 game from Blackmon and a 6-for-6 game from Turner as the Rockies and Dodgers play the regular-season finale at Coors Field, for Turner to overtake Blackmon for the batting average title. In that scenario, Turner would finish at .329 and Blackmon at .327.
Blackmon will also become the first player in Major League history to lead MLB in hits, runs, triples and total bases. That feat has been accomplished in each league -- Stan Musial led the NL in all of those categories in 1948, and Snuffy Stirnweiss did so in the AL in 1945 -- but no one has ever led the Majors in all four.
MLB RBI race goes down to the wire
Stanton goes into today's game against the Braves with 131 RBIs on the season, one more than Arenado, whose Rockies wrap up the regular season against the Dodgers. Should Arenado overtake Stanton, he will have the MLB RBI crown, but also the NL's RBI title for the third consecutive season: (130 in 2015, 133 in '16). Stanton has never finished a season with the league lead in RBIs.
Who will steal the stolen-base title?
Gordon and Hamilton have 60 and 59 steals on the season, respectively, as they enter play today. Gordon stole two bases on Saturday in Miami to overtake Hamilton for the lead (Hamilton did not have a steal on Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field).
Both face left-handers today, in Fried for the Braves and Mike Montgomery for the Cubs, which could make it tougher to get a read and a good jump to swipe a bag. Gordon's career high for stolen bases is 64, which he totaled in 2014 while with the Dodgers. Hamilton's career high is this season's 59 steals. He eclipsed the 58 he stole in 2016 (he stole 56 in '14 and 57 in '15).
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.