The New York Yankees won’t need any extra drama to reach the spectacle that is postseason baseball — they did just enough to guarantee the white-knuckle atmosphere of the Wild Card Game.
Aaron Judge cannoned a game-winning line drive off the glove of Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge to score Tyler Wade and lift the Yankees to a 1-0 walk-off victory, clinching their spot in the one-game playoff for a chance to advance to the American League Divisional Series. The Wild Card Game will be on Tuesday night at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox with the first pitch coming at 8:08 p.m. ET.
The Yankees were held to just one hit over the first eight innings, but a stable of six pitchers managed to trade zeroes with the American League East-winning Rays.
Theys got exactly what they wanted from Jameson Taillon, who got the first 10 outs of the afternoon before getting lifted for Wandy Peralta.
The reliever acquired in the Mike Tauchmann trade immediately ran into trouble after Austin meadows doubled and Ji-Man Choi walked. they moved to second and third respectively after Mike Zunino grounded out. But with two outs, Gleyber Torres made a diving stop on a sharp Joey Wendle grounder to second to keep Tampa off the board.
But the Yankees could not touch Rays starter Charlie Morton, who allowed just one hit in five innings of scoreless ball to raise tensions with each passing pitch of a game accentuated by zeroes.
Urshela continued the sterling Yankees defense with one of the catches of the season across the big leagues, hustling from his position near shortstop on a shift to make a running catch on a Meadows pop fly in foul territory right in front of the Rays’ dugout before leaping and crashing into the bench.
Chad Green ran into some trouble for the Yankees in the seventh inning after Choi led things off with a double and Kevin Kiermaier walked. But Boone turned to Jonathan Loaisiga with two outs to get out of the jam — and he did just that, getting Brandon Lowe to pop up.
After the Yankees went down quickly against Collin McHugh, Loaisiga once again had to play the hero in the eighth inning after Randy Arozarena wreaked havoc in the Bronx.
The speedster reached on a slow roller up the third-base line that Gary Sanchez couldn’t handle to lead things off. He then stole second before moving up to third base on a fly ball to left that was reeled in by Joey Gallo for the first out of the inning.
With the dangerous Nelson Cruz up, Loaisiga got the slugger to strike out swinging before Meadows — who has also been quite a thorn in Yankees sides — flew out to right field.
The Yankees offered little malice in the eighth before Aroldis Chapman shut down the Rays in the top of the ninth.
Rougned Odor led the ninth off against Josh Fleming with a single before he was pinch-run for by Wade. He moved up to second on a sacrifice fly deep to center by Gleyber Torres.
Anthony Rizzo kept the line moving with a single through the shift that was hit too hard to score Wade, but Arozarena’s throw home allowed the first baseman to move up to second with one out.
Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Fleming for Kittredge before making the peculiar decision to pitch to Judge with first base open.