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Rangers will host history-chasing Aaron Judge, Yankees in final 4 games of regular season

Noteworthy ‘October baseball’ is coming to Arlington — but it’s mostly about the opposing team.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — This is all the Rangers could ask for in their beautiful ballpark: October baseball. Big crowds. Big implications.

If only it was for them.

Sure, the calendar says October, though if this season had gone off as originally scheduled, this series wouldn’t be taking place. Sure, the crowds will be big. The Rangers are expecting 30,000 or more for the last four games of the season at Globe Life Field. It’s just not clear how many folks will actually be there to see the Rangers.

Now, about the implications: Look, the Rangers are just trying to get this year over with at this point.

In a listless 8-3 loss to Los Angeles in the road finale Sunday, last-minute starter Tyson Miller allowed six first-inning runs and that was that. The Rangers have lost five straight, eight of nine, 25 of their last 33 and now have 92 losses on the season. All that’s left is history.

Sitting on the precipice of a historical — if not MLB-record breaking — home run, Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees arrive for their long-delayed visit Monday. After being held without a homer at Yankee Stadium over the weekend, Judge arrives with 61 homers, tied with Roger Maris for the AL and Yankees record. It is an unreachable 12 homers shy of the MLB record, even with four games against the Rangers’ sketchy pitching.

To a large segment of fans, including family spokesman Roger Maris Jr., Judge’s next homer will set the “real” record since they disavow the other six seasons of more than 61, including Barry Bonds’ 73 in 2001, as tainted by steroid users. Nobody has asked Bonds’ opinion.

Bonds’ record remains on the books, so MLB has pretty much spoken on the matter. Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to be on hand in Arlington, suggesting the league may be impressed, but doesn’t consider it history. The Rangers aren’t really about to weigh in on that. They’ve had enough to worry about for themselves.

“He’s definitely chasing a historic season for himself, but how things are recognized or not recognized, I don’t determine that,” Beasley said. “So, I’ll leave that alone.

“I don’t think anything’s at stake for our pitchers. We’re going to try to execute pitches and get him out. I don’t want to put anything more than that on it. He’s had an incredible year. No doubt about that. We’re cognizant of that, but I don’t want our pitchers thinking more than about it, because then they may not execute pitches.”

To that end, the less said about Rangers pitching this season, usually it’s for the better. In the case of Judge, though, they did execute when they faced him in a rain-soaked series in New York in May. He was 2 for 10 with a pair of singles and walks.

The Rangers are the only AL team against whom Judge has not homered. So, hey, there’s a motivational speech for the staff. Against the three starters whom the Rangers have set — Martín Pérez on Monday, Jon Gray in one of Tuesday’s two games and Glenn Otto in the season finale — Judge is a combined 1 for 13 in his career. The hit was a single.

Pérez has allowed the second-lowest rate of homers in the AL this year and is trying to finish with a sub-3.00 ERA in a career-best year. But if he gives up a home run to Judge, nationally his season might be most noted for that. Pérez, however, is unfazed.

“I’m not going to throw him anything easy to hit,” he said. “I’m going to throw all my pitches and try to locate. If he hits it, that’s OK. The only thing I can do is throw the pitches I want where I want. If I do that, whatever happens is fine. He’s a good person. He’s humble. And what he’s doing for baseball is good. But I’m just going to do my job.”

Gray and Otto offered up similar thoughts when asked about facing Judge. Good dude. Amazing year. Won’t change how they approach him. And, no, they don’t have thoughts on whether his next homer should constitute a record or not.

Fans react as New York Yankees' Aaron Judge rounds first base after hitting his 61st home...
Fans react as New York Yankees' Aaron Judge rounds first base after hitting his 61st home run of the season, a two-run homer against the Toronto Blue Jays during the seventh inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, in Toronto. (Alex Lupul/The Canadian Press via AP)(Alex Lupul / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Rangers pitchers say they haven’t done much planning or had much discussion on the homer. On Sunday, they were deeper in their fantasy football rosters and a fierce cribbage game than watching Judge’s at-bats against Baltimore. The biggest screen in the clubhouse showed the Cowboys-Commanders game; nobody was watching the one TV on which the Yankees-Baltimore game was taking place.

Doesn’t mean guys can’t dream, though.

Joe Barlow said the relievers have come up with a plan should Judge deposit homer No. 62, which could be worth up to $2 million, if you believe the internet, in the Rangers bullpen in right center.

“We will jump on it and sell it,” Barlow said with a laugh. “And then we will split the earnings from the sale up among the guys in the bullpen. Now, [Judge] would have first crack at it. Hopefully, we will have the bullpen guarded pretty well.”

They aren’t the only ones with plans. The Rangers website showed no seats in the lower levels in left field, the most likely place for a homer to land if it does reach the seats, for any of the four games. There were a handful of seats in right field for one game, but none of them within the first 15 rows.

The Rangers will also have extra security in the stands to monitor the ball and identify who might catch it, in case, you know, somebody might want to offer it up to Judge or the Yankees in a trade. All balls that will be used during Judge’s at-bats have been specially authenticated by MLB.

And that’s it. Time for October baseball in Texas: It’s all about the other guys.

On Twitter: @Evan_P_Grant

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