TORONTO - Aaron Judge clobbered his historic 61st home run, a two-run line drive to left field in the seventh inning of an 8-3 New York Yankees win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Judge matched Roger Maris' 61-year-old American League single-season record for home runs on a 3-2 pitch off Toronto reliever Tim Mayza (8-1) to break a 3-3 tie, with Aaron Hicks also scoring on the play.
As Judge rounded second base, he pointed to Roger Maris Jr., his mother Patty, father Wayne and wife Samantha, sitting in the first row behind the Yankees dugout. Hicks met his teammate with a hug after Judge touched home plate.
His home-run ball screamed over the Blue Jays bullpen, hitting the first deck facing and bounded to Toronto bullpen coach Matt Buschmann.
The Yankees (96-59) snatched the rubber match of the three-game set, in which they clinched the AL East over the Blue Jays (87-69) on Tuesday.
Toronto inched closer to a wild-card berth after the Baltimore Orioles lost 3-1 in Boston to the Red Sox. A Blue Jays win, or Orioles' loss clinches a playoff spot for Toronto.
Judge had gone seven games without a long ball since his 60th homer on Sept. 20. He walked in the first inning, flew to right in the second and grounded to third in the fourth in his previous at-bats before 37,008 at Rogers Centre.
He came to the plate again in the eighth, grounding into a force out with a hard smash to short.
Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole (13-7) appeared determined to steal the spotlight. He had a perfect game through five innings with only two balls hit out of the infield. But he unravelled in the sixth inning, beginning with a leadoff homer from Danny Jansen.
Whit Merrifield followed with a single to centre, then moved to second after a Jackie Bradley Jr. walk. Merrifield advanced to third on George Springer's sacrifice fly and scored on Bo Bichette's infield hit.
Bradley and Bichette moved up a base when Cole balked, and Bradley scored on a sacrifice fly from Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Cole went 6 1/3 innings, yielding three runs on three hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
Blue Jays starter Mitch White lasted only 3 2/3 innings. He gave up three runs on five hits with three walks and a strikeout and has yet to win any of his eight starts for Toronto.
The Yankees opened with three runs in the first inning, benefiting from a pair of successive walks to leadoff hitter Judge and Oswaldo Cabrera.
Former Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson knocked in Judge with a single to centre field.
Oswald Peraza then singled home Cabrera and Donaldson scored on a sacrifice fly to right from Marwin Gonzalez.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (hamstring) and Santiago Espinal (oblique) still need time before they return to the Blue Jays lineup.
Gurriel, out since Sept. 7, hopes to test his leg with some base running on Friday. Espinal, who has missed seven games, worked on his stroke off a tee on Wednesday.
The Blue Jays have Thursday off before embarking on their final three-game set at home with the Boston Red Sox in town for a weekend series.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2022.