NEW YORK — — It’s only been a few days since Aaron Judge went off the deep end. It just feels like more, with the story hanging on his every move.
Judge went hitless for the third straight game, keeping him at 60 for the season and one shy of Roger Maris’ American League record, but the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Friday night .
“He’s coming off the right swings. He makes good decisions. He’ll come,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “But it’s a glimpse behind what a great player he is, because when he’s not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, he’s still a big influence on us. .”
Jose Trevino singled out the tiebreaker with two outs in the eighth inning, and the first-place Yankees cut their magic number to four to clinch the AL East title. They have won five games in a row and nine out of 11.
With four of Maris’ guys back on the field, Judge went 1-for-4 with a sharp single. He struck out twice and lifted a towering fly to left field that thrilled the sellout crowd of 47,346 for a second or two.
Since connecting for No. 60 on Tuesday night against Pittsburgh, the closest Judge has come to Maris’ 1961 mark was a 404-foot drive just in front of the center field fence Thursday.
“He just missed two the last two nights,” Boone said.
The slugger has two games to catch Maris in today’s New York homestand – Saturday afternoon and Sunday night against the rival Red Sox. After that, the Yankees go to Toronto and have just three home games left: Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 against Baltimore.
A night after the Yankees clinched their sixth straight playoff berth, Boone and ace Gerrit Cole were ejected in an altercation with plate umpire Brian Knight.
Pinch-hitter Harrison Bader drew a two-out walk in the eighth and was credited with a stolen base when a wild pitch by Matt Strahm (3-4) allowed him to advance to third.
Trevino singled to center on the next pitch.
Jonathan Loáisiga (2-3) pitched two scoreless innings, working around a pair of singles in the ninth.
Alex Verdugo tied it for Boston with a three-run homer in the sixth. Tommy Pham also went deep against Cole, who has hit 31 long balls this season – the most in the American League.
Verdugo sent a 100-mph fastball into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center, a pitch after Cole thought he had an out. The right-hander dropped his head and ducked behind the mound as Verdugo took a slow pull around the bases.
After the inning, Cole angrily pointed at Knight and was ejected for the first time in his career — though the five-time All-Star was likely done for the night anyway after 103 pitches.
“It wasn’t even close,” Verdugo said. “He wants to steal every pitch. He wants his catcher to steal it.”
Boone joined the argument and was thrown for the 24th time as a manager – and the seventh of his career this season.
“The damage there late is personally hard to swallow,” Cole said. “I think we made some good strides today and I thought overall I threw the ball well. It’s obviously an emotional moment.”
Batting ahead of Judge, No. 9 hitter Aaron Hicks hit his 100th league homer and added an RBI single. Gleyber Torres gave New York a 4-1 lead with a two-run double off Rich Hill in the fifth.
Hill, 42, retired Judge all three times they squared off, including two strikes.
“Obviously, there’s history on the line and he’s having an incredible season,” Hill said. “From a pitcher’s standpoint and competitively, you want to face the best and you want to challenge the best.”
LET’S STAY CONSISTENT
Judge hit a hard single in the seventh and reached base safely on a season-high 22 consecutive games.
“With obviously all the buzz around it and the excitement around it, it’s understandable, he’s still going out there and just putting together good at-bat after good at-bat,” Boone said.
Red Sox: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (shoulder inflammation) allowed three runs in three innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Worcester, throwing 57 pitches. He has been sidelined since August 19 but hopes to return before the season ends. … All-Star SS Xander Bogaerts rested. He’s hitting .314 and started the night second in the AL to Judge (who dropped a point to .315). Bogaerts could be the biggest obstacle between the Yankees slugger and a Triple Crown. … INF Christian Arroyo is back in the lineup after a bout with the flu.
Yankees: 1B Anthony Rizzo rested. … INF DJ LeMahieu (toe inflammation) is taking batting practice and is likely to come off the injured list next week in Toronto.
Red Sox RHP Nick Pivetta (10-11, 4.35 ERA) starts Saturday against Domingo Germán (2-3, 3.12), who has only pitched 2 2/3 innings since Sept. 7.
Judge is 5-for-11 (.455) in his career against Pivetta with two home runs — both this season (No. 32 on July 16 and No. 56 on Sept. 13). Pivetta has an 8.78 ERA in seven career outings against New York and is 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA over three starts at Yankee Stadium.