NEW YORK – Four feet of Aaron Judge separated from his delicious history-making Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, and the ninth inning of the bat exploded from his racket and flew toward the Lair of Legends Park. Perhaps, on a warmer evening, the ball would have fallen near retired No. 9 Roger Maris. We will never know.
As the Judge fly ball ran out of steam, it was Josh Donaldson who delivered a meaningful win for the Yankees, offering a consolation prize to those who agonized to see Judge hit his 61st home. RBI singles tenth-place Donaldson took a 5-4 win over the Red Sox, sealing the Bombers place in the 2022 post-season.
“It’s not over yet, but the chance of us getting a chance to play some baseball after the season is going to be fun,” Donaldson said. “I thought Judgie had that with Homer, but it was nice to be able to join the team.”
The Yankees are a playoff club for the sixth year in a row—or to put that in context, a streak that runs through each of Judge’s full seasons. They’ve reached post-season 24 over the past 28 years, and Aaron Boone was the first coach to punch a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“You never want to take that for granted,” Boone said. “We’re into dancing, and we have a chance now.”
Just winning the post-season berth wasn’t a goal for this team, which has had the MLS East title as its goal since the first day of spring. The Yanks’ magic number for the division is six on the Blue Jays, and as such, their club’s celebration was more than a silent confession.
Donaldson received the team’s gold-plated championship wrestling belt, signifying the most valuable contributor that night. The veteran ended his remarks by saying to his teammates: “Welcome back to the playoffs.”
“There was a lot of hard work over the course of the season to get to this point,” Judge said. “But I guess you can ask anyone in this room—the job isn’t done.”
Oh, but it could have been a magical moment, destined for Yankography Schmaltzy loop and music are borrowed from the “natural” soundtrack. Swinging big from the record-equalizing 61-year-old MLS in a single season, the judge marched in three of his first four games, hearing fans booing loudly for bowlers who dared not move the biscuit in the middle.
The judge had already provided a reminder of why the best player in the AL should be at the top of the ninth, as he fired the seed to second base from the right field wall that cut through Tommy Pham in an effort to extend one into a double.
“Get him off our team, and we might not be sitting in the position we are in right now,” Donaldson said.
The judge showed patience on the plate again in the bottom nine, working the count to 2-2 against Matt Barnes. The Boston right-hander attempted a fastball at 95.8 mph that picked up a lot of the board in the top half of the strike zone. The judge fired it — a cannon blast blasting off his racket at 113 miles per hour — sparking a crowd of 43,123 who remained standing throughout his every appearance at the board.
The judge dropped his racket and jogged at three-quarter speed, hoping to hit the net over the memorials. Quarterback Kiki Hernandez raced back, then stopped, pinning his pins hard on the warning track. The ball fell into Hernandez’s gauntlet, and an entire city seemed to groan in unison.
“Just a little under it,” the judge said. “It was a very windy night. I was hoping it would blow out. I just missed it.”
“I thought it would be flashy if I dropped him at Monument Park there,” Boone said.
The seeds for the Yankees’ leading team’s 16th win in the Major League were sown early. Although Judge remained injury-free in his run against Michael Wacha (0 for 15, 10 strokes), Kyle Higashioka raised a fly in the fifth and thrashed Giancarlo Stanton Homer’s two-stroke right-handed finish in sixth.
Jameson Tellon made a great start, clearing four strokes and netting eight on six goal-free innings. Clark Schmidt had a shaky run, allowing Triston Casas’ solo buggy to run home and Homer three runs to Rhys McGuire who put Boston ahead, 4-3.
Stanton sparked a career in the eighth inning with a groundbreaking song. Hacking runner Tim Lucastro grabbed the second spot, took the lead on the ground and scored a fly at Harrison Bader’s sacrifice to tie the game at 4.
There was a lot to see. Not just what we’ve all been waiting for.
“whenever [Judge] Taillon said, “Everyone comes outside to watch the bats. Nobody wants to miss it. We know it’s going to happen at some point.”
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