NEW YORK — The Red Sox denied Aaron Judge from eclipsing the legend of Ruth and joining the record of Maris, but Judge remaining at 60 home runs did not matter.
The Yankees walked off the Red Sox in 10 innings Thursday night, clinching the 58th playoff appearance in franchise history and their sixth consecutive postseason berth.
With the automatic runner on second base in the 10th and Kaleb Ort on the mound for the Red Sox, Boston manager Alex Cora decided to walk Gleyber Torres to set up the double play.
Josh Donaldson stepped to the plate and grounded a single to left past a diving Rafael Devers at third, scoring the winning run for a 5-4 Yankees victory in the first of a four-game set.
The Sox had a 4-3 lead heading into the home half of the eighth inning, but Ryan Brasier allowed a Harrison Bader sacrifice fly for the tying run.
In the top of the ninth inning, with Clay Holmes on the mound, Tommy Pham laced a single to right that one-hopped the wall. Pham tried to stretch his single into a double, but Judge delivered an on-target throw to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who slapped the tag on Pham for the first out of the inning.
“Judge changed the game with that throw to second base, and that’s what MVPs do,” Cora said.
Pham offered perspective on why he tried to second base.
“You’ve got to look at every aspect of the game and that play,” he said. “We’ve got a pitcher on the mound who you’re really not going to pepper to death with hits. He’s a ground-ball pitcher. That’s a situation where if Judge makes a throw one foot to the right, or one foot to the left, I’m safe. If the same situation occurs again, I’m doing that again.”
Devers and Xander Bogaerts then grounded out, ending the inning. And in the bottom of the ninth, Judge took Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes to the warning track in center field but was denied No. 61.
Reese McGuire hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead after they trailed, 3-0.
This was after Jameson Taillon held the Sox scoreless for six innings, Clarke Schmidt took the ball for the seventh. In short, the Sox bludgeoned the righthander.
Triston Casas laced a solo shot, his third of the year, to right field, making it 3-1. Following a single and a walk, Cora called on a pinch hitter, McGuire, who delivered a three-run shot that sneaked over the right-center-field wall.
With Judge looking to tie Roger Maris’s American League record of 61 home runs in a season, Red Sox starter Michael Wacha walked him twice, much to the dismay of Yankees fans, who booed the righthander for each ball.
“I do not like leadoff walks,” said Wacha. “I don’t like hitting guys. That’s kind of my MO on pitching well. We’re attacking guys, getting ahead, and putting them away with some weak contact or a punch out. Yeah, too many walks tonight, too many hit guys, in hitters’ counts pretty much the whole night.”
Wacha fanned Judge the third time the two squared off, a reminder of how dominant Wacha has been against the Yankees’ Herculean figure. Judge is hitless in 15 plate appearances against Wacha, striking out 10 times.
“Probably luck,” Wacha said on his effectiveness against Judge. “I know he’s hit some balls hard off me and doesn’t have much to show for that. But yeah, I don’t know. Just try to make tough pitches to not only him but to everyone in that lineup and see where it goes.”
Through four innings, the Yankees saw just 38 pitches against Wacha. They grounded into four double plays, two of which came after Judge’s walks. Wacha had to grind through his six innings. He walked four and fanned five but limited damage for the most part.
His only blemish came toward the latter part of his outing. Kyle Higashioka’s sacrifice fly plated the first run of the game in the fifth. Then Giancarlo Stanton belted a two-run homer in the sixth.
The Red Sox fell to 6-10 against the Yankees, ensuring a losing record in the season series. Thursday marked their ninth walkoff loss this season. The Sox were just 1 for 12 with men in scoring position, leaving nine on base.
“We’ve seen that game too many times this year,” Cora said.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.