Every game at this stage of the season is a must-win, but this one especially fit the bill for the Yankees. A loss would drag them further back into the Wild Card race and ensure that the entire weekend would be a nerve-wracking affair.
For a while, it seemed like the team wasn’t up to the challenge. They had mustered just one run on one hit, an Aaron Judge home run, through the first five innings. Sure, it was against AL Cy Young frontrunner Robbie Ray, but it still wasn’t ideal. They had received a solid outing out of Corey Kluber, but it seemed like they had left him in one batter too long and were trailing. Then, the sixth inning happened.
The Yankees’ offense came alive in the sixth, belting three homers, taking the lead and control of the game in the process. They never looked back from there, giving the Yankees a 6-2 win and a massive boost in the playoff race.
The Yankees struck early against Ray, courtesy of Judge. He crushed a ball 455 feet to dead center, getting the Yankees off to a near-perfect start.
455 ft to get us started. pic.twitter.com/JwjUStWYWa— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 30, 2021
Kluber had induced a double play in the first to keep Toronto from answering back, but he couldn’t do the same in the second. Bo Bichette led off the bottom of the second with a single and then stole second to get himself in scoring position. A couple batters later, Corey Dickerson doubled off the wall in right, evening the sore. A big diving catch from Judge for the final out of the inning kept it from being an even bigger frame for the Blue Jays.
After that inning, Kluber mostly settled down and kept the Jays at bay through the fifth. With one out and a runner on first in that frame though, he induced a Marcus Semien ground ball that was seemingly turned into an inning-ending double play. However, on review, Semien was clearly safe and the inning stayed alive. That brought Vladmir Guerrero Jr. to the plate, and he doubled off the top of the wall, missing a home run by inches. Semien managed to score all the way from first, giving Toronto the lead. It probably wasn’t the best idea for the Yankees to let Kluber face Guerrero for a third time, but alas. Kluber ended the game having allowed two runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings.
After that inning, the Guerrero double was the only Blue Jay ball in play that was among the five hardest hits of the game. Judge’s home run was the only Yankee hit up to that point, but they had made some good contact off Ray throughout the game. That portended some better things in the sixth.
With one out in the inning, Anthony Rizzo came to the plate. He belted career homer No. 250 to tie things up. Judge was then due back up and he hit his second of the day, not as hard as the first, but it was to center again, and gave the Yankees the lead once more. After a Giancarlo Stanton walk, Gleyber Torres added the Yankees’ third dinger of the inning, giving them some cushion and knocking Ray out of the game:
Canada Drive. pic.twitter.com/RQkueG7AQQ— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 1, 2021
Of minor note, DJ LeMahieu had to leave the game in the home half of the sixth with what was ultimately diagnosed as “hip discomfort.” He’ll undergo treatment and they’ll reassess from there.
Luis Severino was called on for the seventh and threw a perfect frame, striking out Guerrero to end it. In they eighth, they brought on Chad Green. He allowed a leadoff double to Bo Bichette, leaving us wondering if this was going to be one of his bad days. It took 20 pitches, including eight against Alejandro Kirk, but Green struck out three to end the threat.
In the top of the ninth, the Yankees got some insurances courtesy of yet another home run. This time it was Brett Gardner, who hit a solo shot for the team’s fifth of the night.
Aroldis Chapman allowed a leadoff single in the ninth, but that would be the end of the drama as he recorded three-straight outs after that to seal the victory.
With the win, the Yankees are now two up on both the Mariners and also the Red Sox after their loss to the Orioles. They’re three up on the Blue Jays, and their Magic Number will be 2 going into the final series against Tampa. Just one win would put them in a tiebreak situation at the very least. This was a very important game, and thankfully the Yankees came up with the goods in it.
The Yankees return home tomorrow night, hoping to perhaps a clinch a playoff spot. It’s a battle of southpaws, as Néstor Cortes Jr. will face Shane McClanahan at 7:05pm ET.