Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols find themselves squarely in the spotlight as the Major League Baseball season enters its final two-week stretch.
Yes, there are some playoff races that figure to come down to the wire — Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets in the NL East is the best — but remember, chicks (and dudes) dig the long ball, baby. And baseball fans dig milestones.
Judge and Pujols each happens to be close to a big one. For Judge, the New York Yankees’ brightest star, it’s the pursuit of one of the sport’s magic numbers: 61 home runs in a season, the number Roger Maris hit for the Yankees in 1961. For Pujols, who is retiring from the St. Louis Cardinals at season’s end, it’s becoming the fourth player ever to reach 700 career home runs.
They’re both just two homers away entering Tuesday night’s action. Can they do it? The betting odds at Caesars Sportsbook say yes.
In fact, Caesars puts massive -550 odds on Judge not only reaching 61 but going over 61½ homers. That’s an implied probability of 84.6% that we have a new American League record-holder. You can also bet that he’ll fall short, stopping at 61 or fewer, at +400.
The odds setup is slightly more complicated for Pujols. He’s given a -210 chance of surpassing 700 homers, that is, hitting 701 or more. That’s an implied 67.7%. You can also bet that he’ll finish exactly at 700 at +300 odds (implied 25%) or that he’ll fall short of the magic number at +400 (implied 20%).
Let’s dig into more details on the dual home run chases:
Judge and 61
Yes, that record has since been broken several times, first by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (twice each) and then by Barry Bonds, who hit an eye-popping 73 in 2001. But that’s complicated — all three of those guys were embroiled in the steroid mess that consumed the sport at the time, and so many fans claim their records aren’t legitimate.
Even if you believe Bonds’ record should count — and the official record book says it does, by the way — then Maris’ 61 is still the American League record.
Judge sits at 59 home runs entering Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Yankees have 16 games left, and at Judge’s current pace, 59 homers in 142 games, he’ll hit 65 or 66 homers if he plays in every remaining game.
An injury, of course, would put a stop to the chase, and it’s also possible the Yankees choose to get Judge some rest once they clinch the AL East division title (hard to believe that would happen before No. 62, however.)
Pujols and 700
Once the best player in the league for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols signed a massive free agent deal before the 2012 season with the Angels. It was in Anaheim that injuries and age starting to catch up with him.
Through it all, however, Pujols kept clubbing homers. He hit No. 500 with the Angels in 2014 and No. 600 in 2017. But as his effectiveness dwindled, so did his playing time, until the Angels waived him in 2021.
He hooked on with the Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom he hit 12 homers in part-time duty. He entered 2022 as a free agent, and the Cardinals signed him to a one-year deal, with Pujols making it clear that this will be his last season in baseball.
When the season started, he sat at 679 home runs. He had just six home runs at the All-Star break, seemingly leaving little chance that he could make a serious run at 700.
But since then, Pujols has mashed — particularly against left-handed pitching. He hit two against the Brewers on Aug. 14, giving him 689, then another on Aug. 18 and two more on Aug. 20 against the Diamondbacks. Suddenly, Pujols was at 692 and the chase was on.
He hit No. 696 to tie Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time list on Sept. 10 in Pittsburgh, then passed A-Rod the next night. On Friday, he mashed No. 698 against Cincinnati.
The Cardinals have just 14 games left, starting Tuesday night in San Diego. Pujols doesn’t typically play every day, so he’s a less sure bet than Judge to reach his milestone; however, with the NL Central race all but locked up, you can bet St. Louis will give their hero as many chances as possible for his magic moment.