NEW YORK — It’s only been a few days since Aaron Judge went deep. It just feels like more, with the story hanging on every swing.
Judge went without a home run for the third straight game, keeping it at 60 for the season and one step short of Roger Maris’ record in the American League, but the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Friday night.
“He comes out of the right swings. He makes good swing decisions. It’s going to come,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “But it’s a look at what a great player he is. If he doesn’t hit the ball out of the stadium, he still affects us a lot.”
Jose Trevino won the tiebreak run with two outs in the eighth inning, and the first-seeded Yankees reduced their magic number to four to win the AL East title. They’ve won five games in a row and nine out of eleven.
With four of Maris’ kids back at the ballpark, Judge went 1 for 4 with a sharp single. He struck twice and lofted a high fly to left field that thrilled the sold-out 47,346 crowd for a second or two.
Since connecting for No. 60 Tuesday night against Pittsburgh, the closest umpire to equal Mari’s 1961 mark was a 404-foot drive, caught just outside the midfield fence on Thursday.
“He’s only missed two in the last two nights,” Boone said.
The slugger has two games left to catch Maris on New York’s current homestand — Saturday afternoon and Sunday night against rival Red Sox. After that, the Yankees travel to Toronto and have only three home games: September 30 through October 2 against Baltimore.
One night after the Yankees clinched their sixth straight playoff finish, Boone and ace Gerrit Cole were ejected in a sixth-inning spat with plate umpire Brian Knight.
Pinch-hitter Harrison Bader pulled a two-out walk in eighth place and was credited with a stolen base when a wild pickoff attempt by Matt Strahm (3-4) allowed him to take third place.
Trevino scattered to center on nearest pitch.
Jonathan Loáisiga (2-3) threw two scoreless innings and worked around two one-out singles in the ninth.
Alex Verdugo connected it for Boston with a three-run homer in the sixth. Tommy Pham also went deep against Cole, who has served 31 long balls this season — the most in the American League.
Verdugo sent a 100-mile fastball into the Yankees’ bullpen at right center, a pitch after Cole thought he had an inning-ending strikeout. The right-hander lowered his head and leaned behind the mound while Verdugo slowly trotted around the bases.
After the inning, Cole angrily pointed at Knight and got kicked out for the first time in his career — though the five-time All-Star was probably done for the night after 103 pitches anyway.
“It wasn’t even close,” Verdugo said. “He wants to steal every pitch. He wants his captor to steal it.”
Boone joined the fray and was thrown out as manager for the 24th time — and on his seventh career high this season.
“The damage there late is personally difficult to swallow,” said Cole. “I think we made some good progress today and I thought I threw the ball well overall. It’s obviously just an emotional moment.”
Hitter #9 Aaron Hicks, who batted in front of Judge, started his 100th major league homer and added an RBI single. Gleyber Torres gave New York a 4-1 lead with a double against fifth-place starter Rich Hill.
Hill, 42, retired as a judge all three times, including two strikeouts.
“Obviously there’s history at stake and he’s having an incredible season,” Hill said. “From a pitching and competitive standpoint, you want to face the best and challenge the best.”
Judge laced up a tough single in the seventh and has safely reached base in 22 straight games in a season high.
“Understandably, with all the noise and commotion around it, he still goes out there and just puts good shots together,” Boone said.
Red Sox: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (shoulder infection) allowed three runs over three innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Worcester and threw 57 pitches. He has been sidelined since August 19 but hopes to return before the end of the season. … All-Star SS Xander Bogaerts was rested. He hits .314 and started the night second in the AL for Judge (who dropped a point to .315). Bogaerts could be the biggest obstacle between the Yankees slugger and a Triple Crown. … INF Christian Arroyo returned to the team after suffering a bout with the flu.
Yankees: 1B Anthony Rizzo was rested. … INF DJ LeMahieu (inflamed toe) has been doing batting practice and it’s possible he could be off the injured list in Toronto next week.
Red Sox RHP Nick Pivetta (10-11, 4.35 ERA) starts Saturday against Domingo Germán (2-3, 3.12), who has only served 2 2/3 innings since Sept. 7.
Richter is 5 for 11 (.455) in his career against Pivetta with two homers — both this season (No. 32 on July 16 and No. 56 on Sept. 13). Pivetta has an 8.78 ERA in seven career games against New York and is 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA across three starts at Yankee Stadium.