Aaron Judge reacted with a sense of awe about the company of Yankees legends the young slugger joined with his 40-homer season.
"Pretty surreal. Never as a kid did I think that I would be in the same sentence with those guys," Judge said. "It's quite an honor. It's pretty humbling."
The 25-year-old Judge homered twice Sunday in New York's series-clinching 16-7 win at Texas, becoming only the second major league rookie with a 40-homer season. He also joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as the only Yankees to hit 40 homers at age 25 or younger.
Gary Sanchez also hit two homers for the AL wild card-leading Yankees, giving him 30 this season and 50 in 161 games since his 2015 debut.
"It's incredible what they've both done," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Mark McGwire hit a league-high 49 homers as a rookie for Oakland in 1987, and Judge — who leads the AL with 41 — remembers following Big Mac.
"Especially when he was in that home run hunt, with Sammy Sosa, it was fun to watch," Judge said. "It was pretty cool to see as a kid. To be in the same category with him, it's pretty special."
Judge had his fourth multihomer game this year, his first since June 11. He has four homers in seven games since breaking a homerless skid of 57 at-bats and 15 games that stretched back to Aug. 16.
"He's a big strong guy. He's capable of doing some special things," Brett Gardner said. "He's a big reason why we're right on the Red Sox."
Didi Gregorius tied a career high with four hits while driving in four runs for the Yankees (77-65), who have won three straight series for the first time since late July and moved 12 games over .500 for the first time since June 15. New York is 3 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota for the AL's top wild card and 3 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Boston.
After dropping two of three, the Rangers (71-71) were still 2 1/2 games behind the Twins with three weeks left.
"Any loss at this point is bad," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "The main focus for us now is to keep winning series."
Judge's second homer of the game ricocheted off a facade high above the Yankees bullpen in left-center field, and the ball then dropped among the relievers. That drive in the sixth would have gone 463 feet unimpeded, according to MLB's Statcast
His first homer two innings earlier capped a six-run outburst for a 9-1 lead, landing in the Rangers bullpen in right-center field.
Along with the homers, Judge's walk in the second was his MLB rookie-record 107th this season, and he had a sacrifice fly.
"That just shows he's more than a home run hitter," Girardi said
"With the team I've got around me, all I've got to do is get on base for them and they're going to drive me in," Judge said. "My goal all year is if I can get on with a knock or a walk, they'll do the rest."
PITCHERS OF RECORD
Chad Green (4-0) struck out four in 2 1/3 innings after taking over for starter Jordan Montgomery in the fourth. ... Texas starter A.J. Griffin (6-6) gave up five runs, pitching into the fourth. Reliever Nick Martinez then allowed four consecutive hits before a double-play grounder and Judge's first homer.
Yankees: Girardi expects OF Clint Frazier, on the DL since Aug. 9 with a left oblique strain, to rejoin the Yankees this week from his injury rehab assignment at Double A Trenton.
Rangers: 2B Rougned Odor left with a sprained right ankle after getting tangled up with a sliding Nomar Mazara when both were chasing a popup down the right field line in the fifth. X-rays were negative and Odor will be re-evaluated Sunday. ... CF Carlos Gomez (high right ankle sprain) has been told not to put weight on his right foot for a couple of days after getting hurt in Saturday's game.
Yankees: Back to New York to open a series Monday night against Tampa Bay at Citi Field, home of the Mets. The Yankees will be the visiting team for the series moved from St. Petersburg, Fla., because of Hurricane Irma. The Yankees will play 17 of their last 20 games in New York.