Between Rockies-Dbacks and Bellinger-Seager, NL West is captivating baseball

3:18 | MLB
Is Aaron Judge the new face of the Yankees?
Wednesday June 21st, 2017

It really shouldn’t be this easy

Mark McGwire is the only player in MLB history to lead either the AL or NL in homers as a rookie, belting out 49 dingers in 1987. He might have some company after this season.

Right now, both the AL and NL home run leaders are in their first major league seasons, and both went deep on Tuesday. The AL leader, Aaron Judge, drilled his 24th homer in an 8-3 Yankees loss to the Angels. The NL leader, Cody Bellinger, hit his 22nd in the first inning of the Dodgers 12-0 win over the Mets, in which Corey Seager also smashed three dingers.

What Judge and Bellinger are doing is unprecedented. Both are on pace for 59 homers, rounded down to the nearest whole number. While Judge has played nearly every game for the Yankees, Bellinger started the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City. As such, he’s on pace to hit his 59 homers in just 141 games. That translates to a 162-game pace of 69.9 homers. Barry Bonds is likely thankful for MLB’s arbitration and super two statuses.

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Judge and Bellinger are two of the best stories in baseball, and both could ultimately play in the postseason. The league’s youth movement continues to produce new stars year after year.

Rockies draw first blood in a big series with the Diamondbacks

Anytime two of the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Dodgers get together the rest of this season, much will be at stake. Given the gap between those three teams and the rest of the NL, not including the Nationals who have a huge lead in the East, there’s a strong chance all will be in the postseason. Whoever wins the West, however, will have a leg up on the other two, assuming all three do make it to the playoffs.

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The Rockies did themselves another favor on Tuesday, beating the Diamondbacks 4-3. The bullpen faltered in the eighth inning, with Chris Rusin and Adam Ottavino surrendering solo homers to David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt, allowing the Diamondbacks to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. The Rockies came right back in the bottom half of the frame, however, with Nolan Arenado mashing a two-run triple to right-field, the second straight game in which he has provided the game-winning hit in the team’s final time at bat.

The Rockies are now 5-2 against the Diamondbacks this season, with two more games to come in this series. After that, they’ll head to Los Angeles for a three-game set with the Dodgers this weekend. With the NL West crowded at the top, any one game could be the difference between winning the division and having to play in the perilous Wild Card round in the postseason. It might just be June, but these are still huge games for the cream of the NL West crop.  

Encarnacion brings his parrot to Baltimore

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Edwin Encarnacion did something on Tuesday that he has done a lot recently.

Encarnacion’s 17th homer of the season was also his seventh in his last 12 games. All told, Encarnacion is hitting .429/.571/1.000 with those seven homers and 17 RBI in that timeframe, making him one of the hottest hitters in baseball.

Encarnacion struggled mightily at the start of his career with the Indians. He hit .200/.343/.353 in April, but upped that to .263/.354/.475 in May. Now he looks like the slugger he was in Toronto, raising his season-long slash line to .265/.383/.508. Encarnacion’s hot streak has helped push the Indians back to the top of the AL Central, 1.5 games in front of the Twins.

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