Preview: Blake Snell seeks 5th straight win as Rays take on Yankees
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET
NEW YORK — Aaron Judge knocked one milestone out of the way Monday.
The New York Yankees would like to cross another achievement off their list Tuesday.
New York can secure no worse than home-field advantage for next week’s American League wild-card game with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of a three-game series.
Judge tied and broke Mark McGwire’s 1987 major league rookie record when he hit his 49th and 50th homers Monday during the Yankees’ 11-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
The right fielder’s milestone gave New York its 17th win in 24 games and put the Yankees on the verge of clinching a home game in the wild-card matchup. New York needs a win or a loss by the Minnesota Twins in Cleveland on Tuesday.
Judge is a big reason why the Yankees are back in the playoffs. Besides the home runs, he increased his RBI total to 108 and reached 124 runs. It is the third-best rookie RBI total in team history, trailing the figures posted by Hall of Famers Tony Lazzeri (114 in 1926) and Joe DiMaggio (125 in 1936).
“It’s incredible,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Judge. “I think we’ll appreciate it more when we sit down and have a chance to think about what he did this year. He’s in the conversation for the MVP. Not just the Rookie of the Year, but the MVP.”
Judge also has reached safely in 20 straight games and is batting .328 (22-for-67) with 13 homers, 25 RBIs and 21 walks during that stretch.
“One thousand percent,” Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia said when asked if Judge should be the American League MVP. “What he’s done, 50 home runs, carrying this team to the playoffs, we can honestly say we’re in this spot because of him.”
The Yankees are 9-1 in their past 10 home games. They still have a slim chance of catching the first-place Red Sox in the American League East, but Boston holds a four-game edge with six games to play.
“I think what you want to accomplish is you want to play well this week, continue to play really well and play at a high level,” Girardi said. “I think the physical part is really important.”
Tampa Bay (76-80) will officially be eliminated with its next loss or a win by Minnesota. The Rays were 57-53 on Aug. 3 and a half-game behind the Kansas City Royals for the second wild card.
Since then, the Rays are 19-27. They are 6-10 since the last time they were at .500 on Sept. 5.
The Rays are coming off a split at Baltimore. Evan Longoria did not play in Tampa Bay’s 9-4 loss Sunday but will look to continue his success at Yankee Stadium and reach a personal achievement.
Longoria has homered 16 times in 75 games in New York, which is the second most among any active player. He also hit his 19th homer Friday, leaving him on the verge of reaching 20 for the fifth consecutive season.
The pitching matchup will feature a pair of young left-handers.
Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA) makes his 28th start for the Yankees and first since Sept. 16. In his most recent outing, he tossed six scoreless innings against Baltimore in a 9-3 win. He is 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA in his past three starts.
He is 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts against Tampa Bay. Montgomery made his major league debut against the Rays on April 12 in New York and took a loss July 30 when he lasted 2 2/3 innings.
Blake Snell (4-6, 4.01 ERA) starts the series opener for Tampa Bay after turning in his third scoreless start of the season in a Wednesday win over the Chicago Cubs. He allowed two hits and pitched seven innings.
In his previous outing, Snell faced the Yankees on Sept. 12 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and he gave up a run on two hits in five innings during a no-decision.
Snell is 4-0 in his last 10 starts since July 24 and has won four straight decisions for the first time in his career. It is the longest unbeaten streak for Tampa Bay since left-hander Drew Smyly went 11 starts without losing from July 23-Sept. 20, 2016.
Snell’s run also occurred after he went winless in his first 15 outings of the season.
“I just learned I have to keep going — you have to adapt, keep learning and keep making the adjustments you need to,” Snell said. “I like the confidence that I had and kept believing in myself.”
Snell made his major league debut against the Yankees in New York on April 23, 2016, taking a no-decision in a game decided on a Brett Gardner game-ending homer. He is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees, allowing one earned run or none four times.