TORONTO — From a near August collapse to a late September clinch.
What seemed predestined when the New York Yankees were the best team in baseball in the first half of the season and looked doubtful with their subpar play in the second half, was made official Tuesday night. A 5-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays gave the Yankees their 20th American League East title.
It’s the first divisional pennant for New York since 2019, which was also the year that Aaron Boone won his first title as a manager.
Gleyber Torres had three hits and three RBIs and Aaron Judge walked four times in pursuit of his 61st home run in the victory. The Yankees won for the eighth time in their past nine games, as Jameson Taillon pitched into the eighth inning en route to his 14th win of the season.
“This hasn’t been easy at all. The division is as good as ever,” Boone said in his postgame, on-field interview. “We’ve taken a lot of punches this year, we’ve survived, and we’re going to enjoy this one tonight.”
Batting out of the leadoff spot, Judge, who extended his homerless streak to seven games, finished 0 for 1 with two runs to go along with the four free passes.
“A lot of different people are contributing now,” Boone said. “And it’s going to take everyone.”
“We’ve got a lot of bad dudes in this room,” Judge said. “Guys that are definitely hungry. When you got guys in here that are special players and also have that hunger and have that drive, anything is possible.”
The Yankees, who at times appeared as if they’d run away from the American League pack before stumbling through August, appear headed toward the No. 2 postseason seed behind the Houston Astros. Tuesday’s victory was their 39th away from home, and their 95th overall.
“We had some down times, especially in the month of August,” Boone said. “But they never got too down. They always had that belief that they would get through this.”
Toronto, still seeking to secure the AL’s top wild-card berth, fell to 17-9 in September. George Springer finished 2 for 4 in the loss, with two runs and his 24th home run of the season. It was Springer’s 52nd career leadoff home run, one shy of tying Hall of Fame standout Craig Biggio (53) for third all time.
But the Yankees scored two runs in the third inning on RBI singles from Torres and Rizzo and never looked back. Torres now has 23 RBIs this month, third most in baseball in September.
Judge, who remains one homer away from tying Roger Maris’ American League all-time mark, and the Yankees will close out the series Wednesday night in Toronto with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound. New York will return home to open a three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.
“What a year it’s been so far, we’re definitely not done, but this is a great first step into the ultimate goal of going out there and winning a World Series,” Judge said, “and getting the chance to clinch the division with this group of guys, this is definitely something special.”
Before Tuesday’s game, Judge met and spent time with Toronto Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews, the NHL’s MVP last season. Matthews also threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Judge’s first at-bat.