Matt Chapman homers twice, Blue Jays beat Orioles 6-3

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TORONTO – Matt Chapman hit two home runs, George Springer added a three-run shot and the Toronto Blue Jays maintained their position in the AL wild-card race, beating the Baltimore Orioles 6-3 on Friday night.

Chapman went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and three runs to help the Blue Jays (82-63) earn their AL-leading 39th comeback win.

“We’ve got our most important baseball left to play,” Chapman said. “For me to be able to take good at bats and help this team is huge.”

Adley Rutschman hit a two-run home run and Gunnar Henderson added a solo shot for Baltimore (75-68). The Orioles finished with five hits and were unable to gain ground on the three leading wild-card contenders, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Seattle.

“We didn’t have our best night offensively,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.

The Blue Jays moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Rays after Tampa Bay (80-64) lost 4-3 at home to Texas.

“Obviously, every game is crucial,” Chapman said of the tight AL playoff race. “You’re playing against your own division but not only that, the calendar. There’s only so many games left. It’s hard to make up games. Any opportunity we can get to gain a game, whether it’s separating ourselves from Baltimore or putting the pressure on the teams that are right in the mix with us, every game is huge.”

Toronto improved to 34-17 when hitting two or more home runs, bouncing back from an 11-0 loss to the Rays on Thursday. The Blue Jays won for the fifth time in six meetings with the Orioles.

Chapman opened the scoring with a solo homer off Jordan Lyles in the second inning, his first since Aug. 20, ending a season-long 25-game drought.

“He’s always a threat to hit it hard,” interim manager John Schneider said.

Chapman made it 6-2 with a two-run shot off Joey Krehbiel in the sixth. The homers were his 25th and 26th. It was the 10th multi-homer game of his career.

“They’re a great offense,” Hyde said about Toronto. “They’ve got a bunch of guys that can go deep.”

Julian Merryweather pitched two shutout innings in relief of Trevor Richards, who struck out the side in the first. Yusei Kikuchi (5-7) followed by allowing two runs in two innings.

Lyles (10-11) allowed four runs and five hits in five innings, his second straight losing decision.

“This is just one loss,” Lyles said. “Obviously, the end of the season is upon us and each game means just that much more, but we’ve got a chance to win the series.”

Rutschman gave his team a 2-1 edge by homering off Yusei Kikuchi in the fourth, his 11th. The homer was Rutschman’s first off a left-handed pitcher.

“He’s struggled a little bit right-handed,” Hyde said of the switch-hitting Rutschman. “Good to see him get his first home run.”

Springer restored Toronto’s lead with a two-out, full-count blast into the second deck in the fifth, his 21st.

“That was huge,” Chapman said.

Chapman drove in Bo Bichette‘s leadoff single with another two-out homer in the sixth.

After Kikuchi, Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber and Anthony Bass each worked one scoreless inning before Yimi Garcia allowed Henderson’s homer in the ninth. The homer was Henderson’s second.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: C Alejandro Kirk (left hip) did not play for the third consecutive day.

ROSTER MOVES

Orioles: LHP Alex Wells was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

STRONG IN SEPTEMBER

Toronto is 12-4 in September.

BATTLING BIRDS

The Orioles and Blue Jays have split 14 meetings so far this season. Toronto concludes the regular season with three games at Baltimore.

TRAIL AND FAIL

The Orioles are 26-52 when their opponent scores first.

UP NEXT

RHP Kyle Bradish (3-6, 5.01 ERA) starts Saturday for the Orioles. RHP Jose Berrios (10-5, 5.07) starts for the Blue Jays. Berrios is 7-0 in 10 career starts against Baltimore.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.