Aaron Judge’s clutch hit sets up Yankees-Red Sox wild card game

Aaron Judge’s clutch hit sets up Yankees-Red Sox wild card game

After a season of surges and setbacks, the New York Yankees are set to find out who they really are in the postseason.

Aaron Judge drove home the winning run with a one-out single in the ninth inning and the Yankees clinched a playoff berth in their final at-bat of the regular season by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 on Sunday.

“It’s been a crazy, wild, tough year,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Fitting that it would come down to the last day to get in, but I love our group.”

Gio Urshela made a Derek Jeter-esque catch, charging recklessly into the visiting dugout in the sixth inning, and New York used six pitchers in a five-hitter to finish the year 92-70, punching a fifth consecutive postseason ticket after nearly falling into a labyrinth of tiebreaker scenarios.

The Yankees had their bags packed, knowing a loss to the 100-win Rays could send them into one of several potential Game 163s on the road Monday. Instead, they’ll play in Tuesday night’s AL wild card game at Fenway Park after the rival Boston Red Sox rallied to beat Washington later on Sunday.

New York were a .500 club past the midpoint of the season, falling to 41-41 on 4 July. The Yankees are 51-29 since.

“We’re ready to take our shot,” Boone said. “Feel like I know we can beat anyone when we’re at our best.”

Rougned Odor led off the ninth with a single against Josh Fleming (10-8), just New York’s second hit. Pinch-runner Tyler Wade advanced to second on Gleyber Torres’ flyout to the warning track in center, and Anthony Rizzo moved Wade to third with a one-out single.

Andrew Kittredge came on to face Judge, who ripped a 104.4 mph line drive off the right-hander’s glove. The ball skipped toward drawn-in second baseman Brandon Lowe, whose off-balance throw home wasn’t nearly in time to catch a sliding Wade.

Teammates swarmed a smiling Judge midway between first and second, and fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” at the face of the franchise during an on-field interview.

“I wouldn’t say we exhaled,” Judge said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers will face the St Louis Cardinals on Wednesday in the National League wild card game.