Yankees win AL East and finish the job after ‘keeping their blinders on’ for a long stretch of bad baseball
TORONTO – The Yankees went from an early run to setting a winning record to threatening to blow the biggest lead ever. Their cushion of 15 ½ games in July fell to 3 ½ in early September. Half the team was injured and the fans panicked.
It was a major crisis.
During a low point in their August slump, the Yankees’ worst month in more than two decades, manager Aaron Boone slammed his hand on a table during a postgame interview while emphatically insisting that things would turn around.
Boone was right. Rolling off the back of Aaron Judge while getting plenty of good pitches and some of their core cogs healthy, the Yankees started winning consistently again and continued to accomplish one of their big goals.
For the first time in four years, the Yankees are the American League East champions.
The Yankees clinched the division title Tuesday night at Rogers Center with a 5-2 victory over the second-placed Toronto Blue Jays, their eighth in nine games and 16th in 21 after a brutal 18-31 streak.
“I think our guys did a really good job of never really getting too emotional or overwhelmed,” Boone said. “I think they did a really good job of weathering the storm and keeping their blinders on and continuing to work and have a confidence that was about to change. I think we certainly all shared that.
“As we talk about it all the time, we know that adversity comes in different forms throughout the year. And we’ve certainly done our part there for a good time, especially in the month of August, but part of being a good big league team and good big league players is you have to be able to handle that stuff. And I don’t think our group ever lost confidence. There’s definitely days for me personally where it was frustrating, but there was always this belief that we’re going to get through this.
They’ve come through it and are back in the playoffs for the sixth straight year, and coming with that division crown is a goodbye to the best of three Wild Card Series because they’re guaranteed to have one of two best records. in the AL.
The clincher was a hodgepodge of Yankees at their best minus a homer from their big guy. Judge is tied for 60 games for seven games and still needs two more to break Roger Maris’ American League record, but he scored twice 0-for-1 with four walks.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon took on the biggest charge on the night, who overcame by allowing a first homer in the first to George Springer who put the Yankees in a hole early to turn in a high-quality 7 1/3 inning, two- race exit.
The 10-hit rush was led by Gleyber Torres, who continued his recent surge with a night of three hits and three RBIs.
Aaron Hicks, reappearing recently on his limited opportunities, contributed an RBI brace and threw a runner to second base from left field to kill a Blue Jays rally in the sixth inning.
Down 1-0, the Yankees scored twice to lead 2-1 on RBI singles from Anthony Rizzo and Torres, then doubled the lead by scoring one in the fifth and two in the sixth, making it a 5-1 game.
It was pretty offensive the way Taillon and reliever Lou Trivino were throwing.
With a pitch, Trivino came on in the eighth to get a double ground game with the tying run at home plate, then the right-hander came back and worked a scoreless ninth to save it and spark a sweet celebration on the field that turned into a champagne-spray party at the clubhouse.
– Judge’s seven-game homer drought is his second longest of the season. He went nine games without a hit from August 13-21.
– Judge has started 47 straight and could be rested in Wednesday’s series finale. That would leave him seven games to earn two home runs to pass Maris, the first three at home this weekend against the Orioles.
– Giancarlo Stanton was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, leaving him 1 for 16 with 10 strikeouts in his last four games and hitting .133 with 46 K in 105 AB in his last 30 games.
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Wednesday: Yankees vs. Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m., YES. RHP Gerrit Cole (12-7, 3.49) vs. RHP Mitch White (1-6, 5.12).
Thursday: Public holiday.
Friday: Orioles at Yankees, 7:05 p.m., Amazon Prime. TBA against RHP Domingo German (2-3, 3.30).
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Randy Miller can be reached at [email protected].