After Aaron Judge fell a few feet short of a record 61st home run, New York Yankees fans got the best possible consolation prize Thursday when Josh Donaldson delivered a 10th-inning single to clinch the team’s sixth straight playoff berth.
With Marwin Gonzalez pinch-hit for the pinch hitter, Kaleb Ort (0-2) intentionally walked Gleyber Torre before Donaldson grounded a single into left field from shortstop Xander Bogaerts just after diving to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. a win over the Boston Red Sox and another postseason berth.
New York holds a 7 1/2-game lead over Toronto in the AL East and is headed to the playoffs for the 24th time in 28 years.
“A great achievement. It’s been a lot of hard work over the course of the season to get to this point,” Judge said. “But I think you can ask anybody in this room: The job is not done. Our ultimate goal is to go out and win our division and get ready for the postseason. And that’s step No. 1, step No. 1 of many steps to come.”
Judge had walked three times and struck out once before coming to the plate to tie the game at 4-all in the ninth. The crowd of 43,123 was on its feet at every pitch and Judge fielded a 2-2 fastball from Matt Barnes to right-center field.
“I just fell a little short of it,” Judge said. “Quite a windy night so I was hoping maybe it was blowing when I hit but I missed it.”
The ball left the bat at 113 mph and fans waited in anticipation as Judge jogged toward first base. But they groaned in unison when Kike Hernandez made a catch in front of the fence not far from the 408-foot mark — still leaving Judge one home run shy of the American League record set by Yankees slugger Roger Maris in 1961.
“It’s a little chilly tonight. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be tonight. Maybe it’s another night,” Donaldson said.
“I thought that ball was gone.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.