Aaron Judge crushes record-breaking homer, Jays’ decisive game

The champagne should be put on ice and kept for another day.

The Blue Jays arrived at Rogers Center knowing they had a chance to secure a post-season spot on Wednesday night. It would have demanded a win over the New York Yankees and a loss to the Baltimore Orioles. In the end, only one of those two things happened.

The Orioles lost to the Red Sox at Fenway Park, but the Jays didn’t hold up on their end of the deal thanks to Aaron Judge. The Yankees slugger hit his highly anticipated 61st home run of the season to match Roger Maris for the American League record and prevent the Jays from celebrating a return to the playoffs.

“I feel like we attacked him many times and try to expand from there,” said Tim Mayza after giving up the historic home run and being blamed for the loss. “I was just going to attack him with sinkers. I wanted to challenge him to get the ball on the ground, especially with a runner in front. He put in a pretty good at bat. I made the only mistake, and he took advantage. Congratulations to him , he just left one (throw) too many to a really good batter.”

The Yankees celebrated advancing to the American League East division on Tuesday, but during the early stages of Wednesday’s game, it was the Jays who looked like they got up too late the night before. Mitch White served three early runs, while Gerrit Cole carried a no-hitter in the sixth inning of what had been a dominant performance.

The script changed at the bottom of that frame when Danny Jansen led off with a solo homer to the left. The previously dormant crowd of more than 37,000 rose to their feet and only grew louder as the Jays began to discover Cole. Moments later, Whit Merrifield and Jackie Bradley Jr. made the scene even grittier by reaching base and bringing the lead on the plate.

As all this unfolded, the situation in Boston continued to improve for the Jays. After trailing by two early, the Orioles dropped another run in the sixth and were nine outs from potentially being unable to catch Toronto. Bo Bichette then came through with a single and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. added a sacrifice fly to even the Jays with the Yankees.

So another clinch came to the table. But the euphoric fans must have felt like it lasted about five minutes. In the top of the seventh, Aaron Hicks led off with a single and Judge followed with an undoubted left on a 3-2 count that he sent into the bullpen of the Jays.

The Jays started this series by stating that they would force someone other than Judge to beat them. When the three-game set ended and these two teams met for the last time of the regular season, he found a way to come out on top.

“He’s a good batter, has a great year and he hit the ball extremely hard,” Judge’s Jays manager John Schneider, who walked seven times in the series. ‘A tough guy to feast on in Timmy Mayza. He had good at bats. He was pretty much the entire series in two-strike counts. A few close pitches before that and you give credit to a good batter who’s had a really good year. ”

The Jays are now in the somewhat awkward position of potentially securing a post-season spot on Thursday, even if they have no game to play. With their magic number stuck at one, all the Jays need to get in is another loss to Orioles.

Schneider’s team is expected to come together as a team to watch Baltimore’s final against the Red Sox. If the Orioles lose, there’s likely to be a big party at the clubhouse. If they win, the Jays will try their luck against the Red Sox on Friday night.

Complicating matters even more is that reaching the postseason is only part of the goal here. The Jays also want to secure home field advantage through the first round by finishing first in the wild card race. With six games to go, a post-season berth is inevitable, but placement is important which is why the Jays still need to get as many wins as possible.

That’s where Wednesday’s loss hurts even more. While the celebration was suspended, it is still going to happen, barring a collapse that would defy all logic. Securing the top spot with a wildcard is much more uncertain as the Rays, who own the tiebreak, were left 1 1/2 games behind the Jays after their loss to the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday night.

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