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Yankees nearly sweep American League monthly honors for May

Aaron Judge and Clay Holmes were tabbed as AL Player and Reliever of the Month, respectively.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees played extraordinary baseball in the month of May. Their late-April winning streak carried into May and finished at 11 in a row on May 3rd, and the team did not stop there. They went 19-9, continuing the team’s surge to not only the top of the American League East, but to the best record in baseball. Plenty of players took big steps forward in May, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they received end-of-month honors on Friday.

Aaron Judge led the charge for the Yankees, batting .311/.378/.699 with 12 homers in 27 games, jumping to the front of the MLB home run leaderboard. Remarkably, 8 of those dingers came in one 13-game stretch between May 10-23.

This is the third time in Judge’s career that he’s won the honor, as he won a pair during his MVP runner-up 2017 (June and September). DJ LeMahieu was the last Yankee to claim it, back in June 2019.

The Yankees’ bullpen went through some turmoil in May, as they gradually lost each of Jonathan Loáisiga, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman to injuries, which increased the brightness on the spotlight that shined on less-known members of the bullpen (particularly as Michael King regressed a little from his breakout April). Clarke Schmidt and Wandy Peralta had some valuable contributions, but no one could mistake the unhittable rock at the end of ballgames.

When the Yankees acquired Clay Holmes from the Pirates in mid-July 2021, no one thought much of it since he was a middle reliever with bad surface-level numbers. Pitching coach Matt Blake and company thought that they could unlock something with him though, and boy howdy, have they done so.

Holmes turned himself into a very good reliever for the second half of 2021, but in 2022, he has been simply untouchable. He hasn’t allowed a run since Opening Day, he’s been stingy with his control, and even when hitters managed to avoid a strikeout, they hardly ever make good contact. In May, Holmes didn’t allow a single run, walk, or frankly even a bead of sweat. That’s how you win the first Reliever of the Month honor of your career.

Chapman was the last Yankees pitcher to win AL Reliever of the Month, which he did not in his absurd April/May 2021 (go figure) but instead in August 2019.

Amusingly, the Yankees didn’t miss sweeping the monthly awards by much (though no one was in the mix for Rookie of the Month). Martín Pérez of the Texas Rangers won AL Pitcher of the Month thanks in part to a sparkling 0.64 ERA, but according to Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, Nestor Cortes received votes as well. Nasty Nestor also had some votes thrown his way back in April. Maybe the third time will be the charm in June; at the very least, the surprising lefty has put himself firmly in consideration to start the Midsummer Classic in July.