Judge falls just short of 61, Yanks clinch playoff berth

Judge falls just short of 61, Yanks clinch playoff berth

NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Judge turned around a fastball in the ninth inning, and the already-standing crowd of 43,123 at Yankee Stadium erupted in noise, wondering, hoping he had hit a record-tying 61st home run and clinched a playoff berth with one mighty swing.

Seconds later, groans arose in unison. Kiké Hernández made the catch a step in front of the fence, 404 feet from the plate.

Judge remained one shy of the American League record set by New York slugger Roger Maris in 1961. But the Yankees did accomplish goal No. 1: Josh Donaldson’s 10th-innng RBI single gave them a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox and clinched their sixth straight playoff berth and 24th in 28 years.

“A great accomplishment. A lot of hard work over the course of the season to get to this point,” said Judge, who also threw out a runner at second base to help hold off Boston in the ninth. “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.”

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge reacts after hitting a fly out during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)