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Mets’ Jeff McNeil, Twins’ Luis Arraez clinch batting titles on final day of regular season

After a down season in 2021, Jeff McNeil bounced back to make his second All-Star team and win his first batting crown.Elsa/Getty

Minnesota’s Luis Arraez finished with the lowest average for an American League batting champion since 1968, and the New York Mets’ Jeff McNeil won the National League title.

The New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge missed out on a Triple Crown, edged by Arraez .316 to .311 for the AL title Wednesday after sitting out the final day of the regular season. McNeil also sat out and made it first-time batting champions in both leagues, his .326 average one point ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman.

Arraez’s average was the lowest for an AL batting champion since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski at .301 in 1968. The overall major league batting average of .243 was the lowest since the record bottom of .237 in 1968, the last season before the pitcher’s mound was lowered. MLB will ban defensive shifts shifts starting next year, a move likely to help hitters.

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Minnesota's Luis Arraez, who ended up as the AL batting champ, responds to fans after Wednesday's win.Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

In a season that highlighted baseball’s haves and have-nots, four teams finished with 100 wins, tying the record set in 2019: the Dodgers (111), Houston (106), Atlanta (101) and the New York Mets (101). The Dodgers had the most wins in the NL since the 1906 Chicago Cubs went 116-36.

Four teams had 100 or more losses for only the fourth time after 2002, 2019 and 2021: Washington (107), Oakland (102), Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (100 each).

Judge hit an AL record 62 homers, breaking Roger Maris’s mark from 1961, and Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber topped the NL with 46. The 16-homer gap between first and second in the major leagues was the most since Jimmie Foxx had 17 more than Babe Ruth in 1932.

Judge and the Mets’ Pete Alonso tied for the big league lead in RBIs with 131.

Houston’s Justin Verlander finished with the AL’s lowest ERA at 1.75, adding to the 2011 ERA title he won with Detroit. He became the second pitcher to lead the major leagues at age 39 or older after 42-year-old Roger Clemens in 2005. Verlander also led the AL in wins, going 18-4.

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The Dodgers’ Julio Urías topped the NL at 2.16.

Miami’s Sandy Alcantara was second at 2.28 and pitched 228⅔ innings. That was 23⅔ innings more than Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola, who was second with 205 — the largest gap between first and second in the majors since Phil Niekro led by 49⅔ innings in 1979. Alcantara also pitched six of the major leagues’ 36 complete games — the previous low for a full season was 42 in 2018.

Atlanta’s Kyle Wright led the NL with 21 wins.

Shohei Ohtani went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA for the Angels with 219 strikeouts in 166 innings, and he hit .273 with 34 homers and 95 RBIs. Ohtani became the first player with 10 wins and 30 homers in the same season and also the first to qualify as a hitter and a pitcher since the qualification rule for batters began in 1950.

Ohtani became the first player with 10 wins and 30 homers in the same season.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty

The Yankees’ Gerrit Cole won his second AL strikeout title with 257, and Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes led the NL with 243.

Miami’s Jon Berti led the NL with 41 steals and Baltimore’s Jorge Mateo topped the AL with 35, one more than teammate Cedric Mullins.

Seattle had 34 one-run wins and became the first team with sole possession of the lead in consecutive years since Cincinnati in 1897-98.

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There were was one postponement for COVID-19 reasons, between Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox on May 11, among 2,430 scheduled games. That was down from nine last year and 45 in 2020′s shortened 900-game schedule.

Royals fire manager Matheny

Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas City Royals shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

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In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.

Yankees finish at 99 wins

Judge was out of the lineup a day after hitting his American League record 62nd homer, and New York lost its regular-season finale, 4-2, against the Rangers in Texas to finish with 99 wins.

Jose Trevino homered for the AL East champion Yankees (99-63), who missed a chance to reach 100 wins for the 22nd time and give the major leagues five 100-win teams for the first time. They get an extended break before opening the AL Division Series at home on Tuesday.

Charlie Culberson and Jonah Heim homered for the Rangers (68-94), who wrapped up their sixth consecutive losing season. Texas was 17-31 after Beasley took over Aug. 15, when Woodward was fired and two days before president of baseball operations and longtime general manager Jon Daniels was also let go.

Texas had lost seven games in a row before its 3-2 win in the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday night, when Judge broke Maris’s single-season home run mark that had stood since 1961. Manager Aaron Boone wanted a break for Judge, who had played in 55 consecutive games, and 157 overall

Mets’ Marte unlikely for wild-card series

Mets manager Buck Showalter acknowledged outfielder Starling Marte’s chances of making the wild-card series, which kicks off Friday, are a long shot.

Speaking before Wednesday’s regular-season finale against the Nationals, Showalter did add, “never say never.”

“You can’t swing a bat, you can’t throw a ball, it’s going to be hard,” Showalter said.

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Marte suffered a partial non-displaced fracture in his right middle finger Sept. 6 against the Pirates and the bone is still healing.

What does the future hold for Starling Marte?Justin Berl/Getty

The 33-year-old All-Star worked out on the field, catching popups and fielding ground balls, but did not throw. He hit .292 with 16 homers and 18 stolen bases in 118 games as the team’s primary No. 2 hitter. McNeil and Tyler Naquin have taken his spot in the order.

Angels bringing Nevin back

The Los Angeles Angels have hired Phil Nevin as manager for the 2023 season, removing his interim title and giving him a one-year contract.

The Angels will miss the playoffs for an eighth straight year. Nevin was promoted from third-base coach when Joe Maddon was fired in June with the Angels mired in what became a club-record 14-game losing streak. Los Angeles went 46-60 under the 51-year-old Nevin.

″It certainly means a lot,” Nevin said. “It wasn’t exactly how I envisioned these things happening, but I know I’ve been given a heck of an opportunity with some special people that I’ve created relationships with now for the last six, seven months.”

Nevin learned he got the job when general manager Perry Minasian reached out Tuesday night.

“Called into the principal’s office, and I’ve been on the wrong end of those a lot,” Nevin said. “As he’s telling me, he’s starting to build up, I could sense where he was going.”