NEW YORK — Aaron Judge circled the bases for the 50th time this season , breaking Mark McGwire’s major league record for home runs by a rookie, and returned to the New York Yankees’ dugout to exchange handshakes, hugs and high-fives with excited teammates.

And then he walked up the steps and back onto the field.

Embarrassed by the attention, he managed four short waves with his right hand before heading back to the bench just three seconds later.

“They kind of told me: `You’ve got to go out there. You’ve got to go out there,’ ” he said. “First curtain call. I hope it was a good one.”

Judge had his second straight two-homer game Monday in an 11-3 rout of Kansas City. On an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon, the Yankees won for the 16th time in 22 games during a playoff push that earned no worse than a wild card.

Judge tied McGwire’s 1987 mark with a two-run drive to right-center off Jakob Junis (8-3) in the third inning that put New York ahead 3-0, driving a 93 mph high fastball 389 feet about a half-dozen rows into the right-field seats.

Judge pulled a hanging change-up 408 feet for a parabolic solo shot that bounced to the left of the visiting bullpen against Trevor Cahill in the seventh. It was his fourth multihomer game this month and seventh this year.

He was hitting .329 with 30 homers and 66 RBI when he won the All-Star Home Run Derby.

“The way he started, I thought he was going to hit 60, 70,” Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez said through a translator.

But Judge then slumped to a .179 average with seven homers and 16 RBI from the start of the second half through Aug. 31, a whiff-a-thon that included 67 strikeouts in 44 games.

“I saw frustration,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. “I didn’t see him getting down. I never saw him stop working. I never saw him not believe in himself.”

Judge now has a .283 average, 108 RBI, an AL-leading 120 walks and a big league-high 203 strikeouts.

“Everybody’s going to say, ‘oh, the strikeouts.’ But I think if I’m an owner or a GM, I’ll take 300 strikeouts with the year he’s putting up,” Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier said.

Judge has homered against every AL opponent and his total is second in the majors to the 57 of Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton. Judge is a contender for AL MVP with Houston’s Jose Altuve and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez.

“I’d rather be in a good position in the playoffs and holding up a World Series trophy than an AL MVP trophy,” Judge said.


METS, BRAVES SPLIT: Seth Lugo pitched two-hit ball over six innings, Travis d’Arnaud hit a record-setting homer for New York and the Mets won 3-2 at home to split a doubleheader.

D’Arnaud helped New York rebound from a 9-2 loss in the opener with his solo shot in the eighth. It was the 219th homer for the Mets, a franchise season mark. The sparse crowd jeered when the home run apple didn’t rise after d’Arnaud’s homer, then cheered when it finally came out of the bin it’s housed in three batters later.

Lugo (7-5) turned in the best performance of his career, allowing just a pair of singles. Lugo struck out seven, didn’t issue a walk and retired his final 12 batters as New York won for just the third time in 15 games.

In the opener, Lucas Sims (3-5) turned in his second strong performance since returning to Atlanta’s rotation, allowing two runs and five hits over a career-high 6 2/3 innings.

NATIONALS 3, PHILLIES 1: Michael Taylor homered, A.J. Cole allowed one run while pitching into the sixth inning and Washington won at Philadelphia.

Ryan Zimmerman doubled and Jayson Werth drove in the other run for the Nationals, who extended their franchise record with 50 road wins.

Odubel Herrera homered for the Phillies, who entered one game ahead of the Giants for the worst record in baseball.