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Orioles Chasing Yankees, Henderson Chasing Judge

The two best records in the American League belong to the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles.  The Orioles sit just 1.5 games back of the Yankees in the AL East standings.  And unless one of them falls apart, it seems almost assured we’ll see a competitive division race late into September.

Slugfest in the East

The media spotlight is always on the Bronx Bombers, who are living up to their nickname with help from their sluggers this season.  Aaron Judge leads all of MLB with 26 HRs.  He’s currently on pace to hit well over 50.  His teammates Juan Soto (18) and Giancarlo Stanton (17) have contributed to the teams overall 110 HRs thus far this season. Yet, they’re second in this category behind … (you guessed it)… the Baltimore Orioles.

Only the Orioles have hit more HRs as a team than the Yankees (114).  Leading the way for the O’s is second year slugger Gunnar Henderson (22).  He’s also done this primarily from the lead-off spot; not typically the place for the team’s most powerful hitter.  Outfielder Anthony Santander (17) and catcher Adley Rutschman (14) are helping boost those numbers as well. The Orioles also have Ryan Mountcastle (11), Jordan Westburg (11) and  Colton Cowser (9) adding to the totals.

Dynamic Duos

As I brought attention to in a recent article, Who Are the Early Favorites for AL and NL Most Valuable Player?, Judge and Henderson are both top contenders for AL MVP, as they chase the long ball.  Their teammates Juan Soto and Adley Rutschman may be among their closest contenders, along with the young Royals superstar, Bobby Witt Jr.

Should Henderson break the 50 HR mark, he’ll be the second shortstop in baseball history to make that milestone.  The other is Alex Rodriguez.  Just 23 years old, Henderson was drafted in the Second Round of the 2019 Draft (Orioles picked Rutschman in the First Round).  He took the AL by storm last season earning the Rookie of the Year Award.  Henderson is just six homers away from tying his 2024 total (28).  Meanwhile, Judge is looking for his third season with 50+ HRs.  That would place him in an elite group that includes Sammy Sosa (4), Mark McGwire (4), Babe Ruth (4) and Alex Rodriguez (3).  At age 32, Judge sits just 17 away from 300 career dingers.  He also leads all of MLB in RBIs (64) and OPS (1.111).

All the Awards

If it wasn’t already enough to have a battle for AL East and for the AL MVP, add in the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards to the New York vs Baltimore mix.  Rookie pitching sensation Luis Gil has provided a much needed spark on the mound in absence of their Ace, Gerrit Cole (who returns Wednesday).  Gil leads the AL in ERA (2.03) and is 9-1 in 14 starts with 96 strikeouts and a 0.98 WHIP.  He’s a leading candidate for both AL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.  He’s been so good in fact, LOD writer Aaron Reale was prompted to write, It’s Over: Give Luis Gil the AL Cy Young Right Now. On the Orioles side, Corbin Burnes is right there behind Gil in ERA (2.14) and WHIP (1.04) with an 8-2 record and 89 Ks.  Orioles outfielder Colton Cowser is also in the thick of Rookie of the Year discussion with 9 HRs and 31 RBIs to date.

October Bound

It should be no big surprise to anyone that both the Yankees and Orioles are playing well this season.  However, it seems clear with 40% if the season already played, these are the best two teams in the American League.  Will Judge and Henderson both hit 50 homers?  Will Gil bring home both the Cy Young Award and Rookie of the Year?  Can Rutschman or Soto usurp their teammates and capture the MVP?  Regardless of the outcome in the AL East race, the true test for both teams will likely be in October.  It’s the Bombers vs the Birds from here on out.

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Brian is the Co-Owner/Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and son George. You can also reach him at brianmkoss@gmail.com

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