62 and 700: Judge, Puhols approaching the home run milestone

Aaron Judge and Albert Puhols could make this a milestone week for home runs. Judge struck two more on Sunday, raising the…

Aaron Judge and Albert Puhols could make this a milestone week for home runs.

Judge had two more hits on Sunday, bringing his season total to 59, two shy of Roger Morris’ AL record. The slugger now returns to Yankee Stadium, where New York will play the next six games. Meanwhile, Pujols is getting incredibly close to the 700-homer mark after hitting 12 since the start of August.

Judge’s pursuit of Maris has ignited a debate about how to put this AL record into context if he breaks it. He’s unlikely to threaten Barry Bonds’ major league record of 73, but that mark, along with feats by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa around the same time, were complicated by suspicions of performance-enhancing drugs.

There is one way Judge will likely surpass both Bonds and Maris, regardless of how many homers he hits. He now has an incredible 20-homer lead over Kyle Schwarber for second in the majors. No one has led baseball in homers by at least 20 since Babe Ruth finished with 54 in 1928, and no one else has had more than 31.

Maris led the majors by just seven when he shot a 61, while Bonds led by nine when he shot a 73.

Judge is also in the running for the AL Triple Crown — he leads in homers and RBIs and is just one point behind batting leader Luis Aras — but that won’t be decided until the end of the season.

Puhols, 42, who is retiring at the end of the season, is trying to become the fourth major leaguer to hit 700 homers, following Bonds, Henry Aaron and Ruth. Unlike Judge, he won’t be going to his home stage this week. St. Louis’ next eight games are on the road against the Padres, Dodgers and Brewers.

CUT IT CLOSE

Is it possible that the Padres won’t even make the playoffs after trading Juan Soto? San Diego currently has the second wild card in the National League, but the Padres are just a half game ahead of Philadelphia and 2 1/2 ahead of Milwaukee.

San Diego is 24-20 since the start of August with a .545 winning percentage after going 57-46 (.553) prior to that. Soto has hit just .221 since joining the Padres.

San Diego did win the last three games of the series with Arizona, and Soto hit his first homer of the month on Sunday.

TIME FOR LITTLE THINGS

Who is the most recent player to lead in double-digit home runs?

LINE OF THE WEEK

While Schwarber is second in the majors in home runs with 39, Houston’s Jordan Alvarez is second only to Judge in the AL with 37. He hit a home run in his first three at-bats Friday night in a win over the Astros ” over Oakland 5-0.

Honorable mention: In the same game, Justin Verlander returned from the injured list for Houston and went five hitless innings before being ejected.

RETURN OF THE WEEK

A double dose this week, in fact.

Texas trailed Oakland 7-2 in the fifth inning on Tuesday night before rallying for an 8-7 victory. Mark Mathias homered twice, including a solo shot in the ninth to get the win. According to Baseball Savant, the Athletics had a 94.8% chance of winning in the fifth inning.

The next night, the script was flipped. Oakland beat Texas 8-7 after the Rangers led 5-1 after four. The probability of winning for Texas has peaked at 93.2%. The Athletics completed their comeback with two runs in the top of the ninth, with the tying run coming on an error by shortstop Corey Seager.

ANSWER TO LITTLE THINGS

In 2010, Jose Bautista hit 54 home runs, 12 ahead of Pujols.

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Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

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