The New York Yankees' acquisitions of Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu might not have received much fanfare, but as the 2020 postseason nears, the infield duo is closing in on individual titles that are proving to be extremely significant for the Yankees.
Voit can secure the American League home run title, and LeMahieu can become the first player to win a batting title in each league when the Yankees host the Miami Marlins in their regular-season finale.
The Yankees (33-26) are still trying to secure the fifth seed in the American League after Voit hit a three-run homer and LeMahieu had four hits and three RBIs in Saturday's 11-4 win.
Voit was obtained July 28, 2018, from St. Louis along with international bonus slot money in return for pitchers Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve.
Voit was left off the postseason roster last year due to various injuries, underwent core muscle surgery and lost nearly 15 pounds heading into summer camp.
Voit enters Sunday with 22 homers, three ahead of Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu. When the season finishes, he will likely join a group of Yankee home run champions that includes Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle along with Roger Maris, whose 61 homers broke Ruth's single-season mark in 1961.
"It's pretty cool," Voit said. "I've been trying to transform myself into a better power hitter, and this year was another steppingstone for me. I felt like every time I hit a home run, Jose Abreu hit a home run, too. It was fun, and the goal is to keep it going into the playoffs."
LeMahieu was signed to a two-year contract on Jan. 27, 2019. Last season he hit .327, losing the American League batting title by eight points to Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
LeMahieu played 145 games, everywhere in the infield except shortstop.
He has been even better this season after missing summer camp recovering from COVID-19 and missing 10 games with a sprained left thumb. He enters with a major league best .359 average, 13 points better than NL leader Juan Soto and 31 points above Anderson in the AL.
"He was a good hitter in Colorado," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "I'm sure he's refined it more, but he looks exactly the same. The guy is a tough out. He uses the whole field. He's the whole package."
LeMahieu won the National League batting by hitting .348 with Colorado in 2016, and he can become the first Yankee to win a batting title since Bernie Williams batted .339 in 1998.
"DJ has a chance to be the first guy ever to win it in both leagues," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "This game has been around for a long time, and I think anyone who has watched just knows how special of a player DJ LeMahieu has been for us in these two years."
The Marlins (30-29) can clinch their first winning season since going 87-75 in 2009. They failed to do so on Saturday, when their bullpen allowed 11 runs and squandered a three-run lead while regulars Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, Brian Anderson, and Jesus Aguilar were rested.
The Yankees will start Clarke Schmidt (0-0, 7.71 ERA). Schmidt's only other appearances came in relief on Sept. 4 in Baltimore and on Sept. 7 in Buffalo against the Blue Jays.
Jose Urena (0-3, 6.00) goes for the Marlins and is not expected to pitch more than two or three innings. He will be making his fifth start since recovering from COVID-19.
Urena allowed four runs in six innings Tuesday in Atlanta and allowed two runs in six innings in his only start against the Yankees on June 17, 2015.
--Field Level Media