NEW YORK — The anticipation for Aaron Judge’s American League record-tying 61st home run stretched through a third day, but there were fireworks of a different sort on Friday at Yankee Stadium, where Gerrit Cole was ejected and Jose Trevino delivered a tiebreaking hit late in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory over the Red Sox.
Trevino continued his season-long success with runners in scoring position by stroking a clean RBI single to center field in the eighth inning, scoring Harrison Bader, who had come off the bench to work a pinch-hit walk and then advanced to third on a stolen base and a throwing error by pitcher Matt Strahm.
“Just passing the baton, knowing that the guy behind you has got your back,” Trevino said. “One through nine, guys on the bench … we believe in each other. Outside noise doesn’t matter to us. What matters is this clubhouse.”
Combined with the Rays’ 10-6 victory over the Blue Jays, New York’s fifth straight victory sliced its magic number to clinch the AL East to four.
“I feel like right now, we’re just trying to get wins,” said Aaron Hicks, who homered and drove in two runs. “If we go out there and do that, it’ll take care of itself.”
With Judge seeking to equal Roger Maris’ AL single-season record of 61 homers, a sellout crowd of 47,346 rose for each of the slugger’s plate appearances, alternating between encouraging roars and eerily focused silence that some of Judge’s teammates have noticed from the top step of the dugout railing.
Having hit his Major League-leading 60th homer on Tuesday against the Pirates, Judge was again kept in the ballpark, limited to a seventh-inning single in four at-bats. The hit off Kaleb Ort kept Judge’s on-base streak alive at 24 games; Judge went hitless against starter Rich Hill, striking out twice and flying out to left field.
“I think the casual person thinks, ‘I’m going to come tonight and [see him] hit a homer,’” manager Aaron Boone said. “The reality is, he’s just missed two [homers] the last two nights. He’s getting off the right swings; he’s making good swing decisions. It’s going to come.
“But it is a peek behind just how great a player he is that when he doesn’t hit the ball out of the ballpark, he’s still impacting us in a big way — getting on base, his outfield play, on the bases. With all the noise and excitement around this, he’s still going out there and putting together good at-bats.”
It was a different Aaron — Hicks — who keyed New York’s offense instead. Having recently lamented his loss of playing time to Bader, Hicks slugged a third-inning homer, then delivered a run-scoring single in the fifth. Gleyber Torres added a two-run double in that frame off Hill, who lasted five innings.
“It means a lot,” Hicks said. “I’m trying to go out there and help this team win. I’m out there competing. To go out there and do well felt good.”
Cole was tossed by home-plate umpire Brian Knight for arguing balls and strikes in the sixth inning, having surrendered a game-tying three-run homer to Alex Verdugo. Cole believed a 1-2 pitch to Verdugo should have been a strike; it was ruled a ball, and Verdugo slugged the next offering over the right-center-field wall.
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“Just an emotional moment; first career ejection,” said Cole, who also surrendered a first-inning homer to Tommy Pham and has allowed a career-high-tying 31 homers, most in the AL. “I’m just a competitor; I’m just upset. It was the worst pitch of the sequence. He put a beautiful swing on it and did what he wanted.”
Said Verdugo of the 1-2 pitch: “It wasn’t even close. He can complain all he wants. The goal of this game is to throw it over the white plate. He wants to steal every pitch, and he wants his catcher to steal it. He’s just mad that the outcome happened [for] our side.”
Boone was ejected for the ninth time this season, having interceded when he saw Trevino getting involved in the spat. Trevino, for what it’s worth, said that he thought the 1-2 pitch to Verdugo was similar to strikes that were called on Judge.
“There’s some frustration there,” Boone said, “but I think there’s a lot of really good takeaways from this that we need to keep building on.”