Judge delivers ninth, Yanks clinch playoff berth in batting final

Aaron Judge celebrates after hitting a single late in the ninth inning as Ji-Man Choi watches at Yankee Stadium on October 3, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

Gio Urshela did like Derek Jeter, and Aaron Judge was his epitome.

After a season of pushes and setbacks, the New York Yankees are ready to find out who they really are in the playoffs.

Might as well start against the rival Red Sox.

The judge returned the winning run with a single with a ninth inning strikeout and the Yankees clinched a playoff berth in their last regular-season at-bat, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 on Sunday.

“It has been a crazy, wild and difficult year,” said manager Aaron Boone. “It’s fitting that it boils down to the last day to get in, but I love our group.”

Urshela made a catch at the Jeter, charging recklessly into the visitors’ dugout in the sixth inning, and New York used six pitchers in a five batting to hit their fifth straight playoff ticket after nearly falling through a maze of scenarios. tie-breaking.

The Yankees had packed their bags, knowing that another loss to the 100-win Rays could send them into one of many potential 163 road games on Monday. Instead, they’ll play in the AL wildcard game on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, with ace Gerrit Cole facing the Red Sox after Boston rallied to beat Washington later on Sunday.

The Yankees swept a three-game streak in Boston last weekend and the teams finished tied for second in the AL East behind Tampa Bay at 92-70. The Red Sox are hosting the game with wild cards because they went 10-9 against New York this year.

New York was a .500 club after the middle of the season, falling to 41-41 on July 4. The Yankees are 51-29 since.

“We’re ready to shoot,” Boone said. “I feel like I know we can beat anyone when we’re at our best.”

Rougned Odor started the ninth with a single against Josh Fleming (10-8), just New York’s second hit. Pinch runner Tyler Wade advanced in second place on Gleyber Torres’ flyout to the center warning track, and Anthony Rizzo moved Wade to third with a single with one out.

Andrew Kittredge faced off against the judge, who snatched a 104.4 mph line from the right-hander’s glove. The ball jumped towards second baseman Brandon Lowe, whose lopsided throw at home wasn’t nearly in time to catch a slippery Wade.

Teammates swarmed a smiling judge halfway between the first and second, and fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” facing the franchise during a field interview.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve expired,” Judge said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

The judge had never delivered a hit in the majors. This was his eighth hit in the eighth inning or later this season, tied for most in the majors and most by a Yankee since at least 1961.

“This is the guy you want up there,” Wade said.

New York needed a win or a loss for Toronto and Seattle to clinch and avoid a tiebreaker on Monday. With the out-of-town scorecard showing the Blue Jays putting Baltimore on the road from the start, it was clear that in the fourth inning the Yankees would not return to a wildcard spot.

Rays starter Michael Wacha was not straying either. The veteran threw a five-innings hitting, rolling New York with 56 shots. He induced two double games, bringing New York’s highest total to 154.

Urshela reestablished a charge in Yankee Stadium with her cheeky bolt in the Tampa Bay dugout.

With two strikeouts in the sixth, Urshela sprinted 126 feet after Austin Meadows’ popup from a staggered formation in the field. He caught it a stride before reaching the top step of the Rays dugout, then appeared to jump off the warning track at full speed into an empty spot on the bench.

Plate umpire Angel Hernandez knocked over the railing to chase after him to confirm the call as the Tampa Bay players quickly waved to the home dugout for a coach. Boone ran across the field and was followed by members of the medical staff. Pinstriped teammates gathered near the entrance to the canoe while Urshela was groomed.

“It looked like a missile flying in there,” Boone said. “It scared me to death.”

Urshela emerged about a minute later and limped back towards the Yankees bench to chants of “Gio! Gio!” Surprisingly, he came back to the shortstop for the seventh inning despite a stiff bruise in his left thigh. He was knocked out on his next strike in the eighth inning, then was replaced by Andrew Velazquez in the ninth.

Jeter, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last month, bloodied his face while diving into the seats at third base after catching a popup during a game against rival Boston on July 1, 2004.

Urshela doesn’t know how he landed, but he’s glad it wasn’t on his head. He opened his eyes after he crashed and saw the bullet in his glove, then worried momentarily that he was seriously injured.

“It was like a lot of pain at that point,” he said.

Boone said there had been no structural damage, but Urshela will be reassessed on Monday before determining her future availability. The smooth infielder had a more exaggerated limp after the game.

Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon delivered 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his second start since partially tearing a ligament in his right ankle last month. Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga secured the ball to close Aroldis Chapman in the ninth with the game still scoreless.

Chapman (6-4) put out two catches and blocked a runner to keep him 0-0.

New York had only one hit in eight innings, although Gary Sánchez hit two rockets in the eighth. One sailed away from the left field foul post, and the other was caught with a diving effort by left fielder Brett Phillips.

It was the fifth time the Yankees had entered the final day of the still-contested regular season for a playoff berth and the first since 1995.

Tampa Bay rookie Randy Arozarena started the eighth with a single and stole the second, giving him 20 homers and 20 steals. Only Tommy Pham and BJ Upton had already achieved those marks in the same season for the Rays.

“I was glad he got it too,” said manager Kevin Cash, “because I was sick of hearing: ‘Green light! Green light!’ all the time of it. “


Yankees: INF DJ LeMahieu went on the 10-day injured list with a sports hernia, likely keeping him out of the AL Division series if New York advances that far. … New York has recalled RHP rookie Luis Gil.


Yankees: Cole (16-8, 3.23 ERA) recovers the ball Tuesday night in Boston.

Rays: Host the opening match of an AL Division series on Thursday against the winner of the AL wild card match.

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