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Judge Just Misses Record-Tying Homer as Yankees Clinch Playoff Spot

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A tense and weird quiet fell over Yankee Stadium at a time that, under normal circumstances, would have produced thunderous noise. The sport was tied within the ninth inning because the Yankees faced the Boston Red Sox, their most fierce rival, and the slugger everyone had come to see was entering into the batter’s box.

With the batter, Aaron Judge, needing only yet one more home run to tie Roger Maris’s American League record of 61 in a single season, a crowd of greater than 43,000 gave the impression to be holding its breath.

As Judge peered out toward Matt Barnes, a Red Sox reliever, the fans stood and leaned forward, too, concentrating so hard within the moment it was as in the event that they forgot to cheer.

“I noticed it,” Alex Cora, the manager of the Red Sox said of the dearth of noise. “I mean, everybody noticed it. It got very quiet on every pitch.”

Lots of the fans were holding their camera phones as much as record what they hoped would turn right into a historic moment, perhaps lending to the eerie lack of applause, especially in the world behind home plate. But then Judge uncoiled his mighty swing on a high, 96-mile-per-hour fastball, sending the ball soaring up into the air and deep toward center field.

The silence briefly shifted right into a roar before falling quiet once more when Kiké Hernández, the Boston center fielder, settled under the ball. He caught it on the warning track mere feet from Monument Park, where a plaque honors Maris together with all the opposite Yankees greats.

“I assumed it could have been pretty showy to drop it off at Monument Park on the market,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of the long drive.

It was to not be, and Judge, who was 0 for two with a strikeout and three walks, frustratingly remained one homer behind Maris’s coveted mark. But an inning after Judge got here up just short, Josh Donaldson slashed a single to left field, scoring Marwin Gonzalez and giving the Yankees a dramatic 5-4 win. It was the their eighth win in ten games, and with it the team clinched not less than a wild-card on this 12 months’s postseason.

With Toronto losing to Tampa Bay on Thursday, the Yankees’ lead over the Blue Jays within the American League East grew to seven and a half games with 13 to play, yet their postgame celebration was fairly muted.

“We have now the final word goal of winning our division and setting ourselves up for the postseason,” said Judge, who added that he didn’t think he had hit that ball off Barnes well enough for it to exit. “But that is step number one in all many steps to return, that’s obviously.”

Before the sport, Cora had promised that the Red Sox would challenge Judge, saying they’d not look to walk him intentionally, or pitch around him, either. However the fans actually felt that was the case in the primary inning, when Michael Wacha, Boston’s veteran starter, walked Judge on 4 pitches, eliciting sustained booing from the gang.

Judge got here into the sport 0 for 14 against Wacha, with 9 strikeouts, so Wacha had every reason to feel confident he could get Judge out, even when the Yankee slugger is leading the American League in batting average, at .316.

Wacha walked Judge again within the third inning, resulting in more booing, but each Cora and Wacha dismissed the notion that it had been intentional, blaming it on Wacha scuffling with his mechanics, which led to problems with control.

“Definitely not,” Wacha said of whether the walks were by design. “I don’t like leadoff walks, I don’t like hitting guys. That’s sort of my M.O. on pitching well, is attacking guys.”

Fans were skeptical, and their frustration grew with each ball thrown out of the zone. Cora noted that Judge, an all-around talent on the plate, is an authority at shedding bad pitches.

Cora’s declaration of intent before that game, that they’d pitch to Judge, was finally borne out within the fifth, when Wacha went hard on the slugger with runners on first and second and one out. Judge struck out swinging at a 1-2 changeup. It was the tenth time in 15 profession at-bats that Wacha had sent Judge back to the dugout that way.

Within the seventh, John Schreiber, a Boston reliever, gave up a leadoff double to Kyle Higashioka, which meant Judge would come to the plate with first base open and the Red Sox leading, 4-3. It was no time for bravado. The prudent thing to do was to walk Judge, and Schreiber did so on five cautious pitches.

Barnes took over within the ninth and faced Judge with the bases empty and one out, saying later that he never considered pitching around him.

“With all due respect to Aaron Judge, and he’s an amazing person and he’s having an unbelievable season,” Barnes said, “I’m attempting to get him out. I frankly don’t care about history. We have now a ballgame to win and if I hand over a homer, the ballgame is over.”

Judge, whose pursuit of Maris has captivated baseball, didn’t contribute any hits, but he made a terrific defensive play with the rating tied within the ninth inning, demonstrating his all-around skill on the baseball field. Tommy Pham singled to right and made the error of difficult Judge’s arm by attempting to stretch it right into a double. Judge corralled the ball and made a laser throw to second, which Cora noted waas the sort of play made by a player hoping to win the Most Helpful Player Award.

The teams are scheduled to satisfy three more times at Yankee Stadium, and based on Thursday’s encounter, Judge might even see a pitch or two to hit, but may not. Boston is at the tip of a poor season during which it is going to not make the playoffs, yet Cora insisted the team remains to be attempting to win. Meaning difficult Judge when the time is true, and being careful when it isn’t.

“The sport was on the road, and we pitched to him,” Cora said almost defiantly. “This isn’t about being cocky or, ‘That is what we do.’ But that is what we do, and he’s really good at shedding pitches.”

Tyler Kepner and Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.

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