Yankees beat Blue Jays to clinch AL East as Aaron Judge continues to hunt for 61

TORONTO — The wait is finally over.

No, Aaron Judge hasn’t matched Roger Maris’ home run record, but the Yankees clinched their first AL East title since 2019 — and second since 2013 — with a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at the Rogers Center.

Now the Yankees have eight games left to prepare for the playoffs — having secured a first-round bye, as well as home-court advantage in the ALDS — and to see if Judge can hit his game-winning homers. .

Judge went seven games without a hit — his longest streak since a nine-game drought in August — but the Yankees won all but one of those games.

Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge gets a high-five from the dugout after scoring.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

For a while, it looked like the Yankees were headed for a divisional crown. They built a 15 game ¹/₂ lead on July 8, when they were 61-23 on the season. But injuries and falls plagued them in the second half of the season, and two months later that lead had fallen to just 3½ games over the Rays on September 9.

Since then, however, the Yankees have rallied amid the home run chase from Judge, and after failing in their first attempt to seal the division on Monday, they took care of business on Tuesday.

They were barely considered favorites after an offseason in which they passed up the chance to sign a marquee free agent shortstop and were unable to land a marquee starting pitcher.

An MVP-caliber season from Judge kept them in first place for much of the latter part of the year, and he’s gotten more help lately as the Yankees look to build momentum heading into the playoffs.

They have won eight of their last nine games, as well as 12 of 15.

Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks hugs Aaron Judge, next to Harrison Bader, after the Yankees defeated the Blue Jays on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 in Toronto.
Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks hugs Aaron Judge, next to Harrison Bader, after the Yankees defeated the Blue Jays.

Gleyber Torres led the way on Tuesday with three hits and three RBIs, while Jameson Taillon – who will likely be in the mix to be the No. 4 starter in the playoffs, along with Domingo German – was superb for a second consecutive outing .

After holding the Red Sox scoreless for more than six innings in his previous outing, Taillon gave up just one homer to George Springer late in the first before getting the better of the Blue Jays lineup.

After the Springer homer, Taillon struck out 14 of the next 15 batters he faced and allowed just two runs in 7 ¹/₃ innings.

The Yankees offense reached Jose Berrios for two runs in the third inning.

Kyle Higashioka started with a single and moved to second on Judge’s walk. Anthony Rizzo hit a single from the right side of the infield to drive Higashioka and tie the game. Torres followed with a base hit in the middle to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead before Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton hit to end the inning.

Judge started the fifth with another walk and moved to second when Rizzo’s pop fly to shallow center fell. Torres then delivered his second single of the night to lead Judge to make it 3-1. Rizzo was sent off at third on the play.

Donaldson reached on a throwing error by Bo Bichette from shortstop, and with runners in the corners, Stanton breathed again and Oswaldo Cabrera was knocked out.

Yankees wide receiver Kyle Higashioka hits Aaron Judge after scoring on an RBI double from Aaron Hicks in the sixth inning.
Yankees wide receiver Kyle Higashioka hits Aaron Judge after scoring on an RBI double from Aaron Hicks.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Higashioka doubled in the sixth and scored on an Aaron Hicks brace before Torres added his third RBI base hit of the night.

The Blue Jays had a chance to get back into the game late in the inning, but escaped the inning.

After the one-out single from Springer, Bichette hit one to the center and slid headfirst in the second, but he went past the sack and Isiah Kiner-Falefa alerted Bichette’s foot for the second out.

With Springer down third, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. singled left, but inexplicably tried to go second on the play. He was ejected easily by Hicks after Springer scored.

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