Judge falls just short of 61, Yankees clinch playoff berth

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NEW YORK – Aaron Judge fell a few feet short of a record-tying 61st homer, hitting a 404-foot drive caught just in front of the center field wall, and the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 Thursday night on Josh Donaldson‘s 10th-inning single to clinch their sixth straight playoff berth.

Judge had walked three times and struck out once before he came to the plate with the score tied 4-all in the ninth. The crowd of 43,123 was on its feet for every pitch, and Judge drove a 2-2 fastball from Matt Barnes just to the right of straightaway center.

“I just got underneath it a little bit,” Judge said. “A pretty windy night, so I was hoping maybe it was blowing out at the time I was hitting, but just missed it.”

The ball left the bat at 113 mph, and fans waited in anticipation as Judge jogged toward first base. But they groaned in unison as Kike Hernandez made the catch a step in front of the fence, not far from the 408-foot sign – leaving Judge still one home run shy of the American League record set by Yankees slugger Roger Maris in 1961.

“Tonight it’s a little cool. Maybe it wasn’t meant for tonight. Maybe it’s another night,” Donaldson said.

“I thought that ball was gone.”

Judge also threw out a runner at second base to help hold off Boston in the ninth, showing off his defensive prowess. Tommy Pham hit a one-hopper off the right-field wall against Clay Holmes (7-4). Judge played the carom and from the warning track threw a strike to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa for the tag. It was Judge’s sixth assist of the season.

Then in the 10th, with pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez at second as the automatic runner, Kaleb Ort (0-2) intentionally walked Gleyber Torres before Donaldson grounded a single just past diving shortstop Xander Bogaerts and into left field.

Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer for the Yankees, and Harrison Bader had a tying sacrifice fly in the eighth after Stanton’s leadoff infield single.

New York has a 7 1/2-game lead in the AL East over Toronto and is headed to the playoffs for the 24th time in 28 years.

“A great accomplishment. A lot of hard work over the course of the season to get to this point,” Judge said. “But I think you could ask anybody in this room: The job’s not finished. We have an ultimate goal of going out there and winning our division, and setting ourselves up for the postseason. And this is step No. 1, step No. 1 of many steps to come.”

Triston Casas hit a solo homer and pinch-hitter Reese McGuire delivered a three-run drive in a four-run seventh off Clarke Schmidt as Boston overcame a 3-0 deficit.

CHOPPY CHAPMAN

Aroldis Chapman had another shaky outing for the Yankees in relief, walking two batters with one out in the eighth – the second on four pitchers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Trevor Story (bruised left heel) went back on the 10-day injured list and 1B/3B Bobby Dalbec was recalled from Triple-A Worcester.

Yankees: LHP Zack Britton (Tommy John surgery) was activated from the 60-day IL and LHP Wandy Peralta (back) was put on the 15-day IL, retroactive to Monday.

UP NEXT

New York ace Gerrit Cole (12-7, 3.41) starts against LHP Rich Hill (7-7, 4.70) on Friday night.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closed out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).