NEW YORK -- One year after their run ended a victory shy of advancing to the World Series, the Yankees are officially getting another crack at the title, popping corks in celebration after punching their ticket into the American League Wild Card Game.Momentarily hobbled after smashing a foul ball off
NEW YORK -- One year after their run ended a victory shy of advancing to the World Series, the Yankees are officially getting another crack at the title, popping corks in celebration after punching their ticket into the American League Wild Card Game.
Momentarily hobbled after smashing a foul ball off his left ankle, Aaron Hicks squinted through the pain and returned to the batter's box, lashing a line-drive double that chased home Didi Gregorius with the winning run in New York's 3-2, 11-inning victory over the Orioles on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
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"It's awesome," said Hicks, who also hit a second-inning homer in the contest. "That's the whole point of Spring Training, is to get to this point in the year where you're fighting for something and you get yourself in the postseason. That's what we're here for."
Scoring from first base on Hicks' knock down the left-field line off southpaw Paul Fry, Gregorius slid home headfirst ahead of a relay throw from shortstop Jonathan Villar, prompting the Yanks to spill from the dugout. New York's magic number entering the afternoon stood at two, and combined with the Rays' 5-2 loss at Toronto, the Yankees can now use their final regular-season games to prepare for an Oct. 3 showdown that they hope will be played in the Bronx if they can hold off the A's, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot.
"Any time you get a chance to play in the postseason, it's a blessing," Aaron Judge said. "It's a lot of hard work all around, from top to bottom in this organization. But we're not done yet. We've still got a lot of work to do. This is just the first step. We've got to keep working and keep playing through October."
Having steered the Yankees to 95 wins so far in his rookie season, manager Aaron Boone said that he will not ease off the gas pedal since home-field advantage is still up for grabs.
"It's a privilege to get an opportunity to play postseason baseball and have an opportunity to chase the ultimate prize. We have that opportunity now," Boone said. "There's going to be  other teams going home, so I think it's really important that we appreciate it and never take it for granted."
The Yankees continued to slug closer to the single-season record for team home runs, with Hicks and Luke Voit launching second-inning solo shots off David Hess. Hicks' 26th home run reached the right-field seats and, two batters later, Voit visited the right-center-field bullpen for his 11th since joining the Yankees.
"This lineup is so, so good," Voit said. "We can compete with anyone in baseball with this lineup, and that goes for our pitching as well, too. I'm just going to do my job, try to stay within myself and keep it rolling."
Lance Lynn limited the Orioles to two runs (one earned) and seven hits over five innings, assisted by his defense as two runners were tagged out at home plate. Breyvic Valera scored a third-inning run when Gary Sanchez threw errantly down the right-field line, but Gleyber Torres retrieved the ball and fired home, where Lynn tagged Steve Wilkerson out.
"High throw," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "At that moment, I thought I was closer to home plate. When I saw Gleyber throw the ball, I heard Lynn call me off and say, 'I got it. I got it.' He made a great play there; amazing catch, amazing tag."
In the fifth, Wilkerson raised his hands in frustration after being nabbed again, this time on a strong throw by Judge from shallow right field on a Caleb Joseph single. Statcast™ clocked Judge's throw at 96.9 mph, his first assist since returning from the disabled list. Baltimore tied the game in that inning when DJ Stewart's single to center field chased home Joseph.
The Yanks' bats went quiet after Torres' seventh-inning double, creating opportunities for the Orioles to avoid their 110th loss. But New York's bullpen did stellar work, combining for six scoreless innings.
Baltimore threatened by loading the bases with one out in the 10th, but the O's were turned aside by Jonathan Holder. Tommy Kahnle picked up the victory after hurling a scoreless 11th.
"I'm just really proud to be associated with these guys -- the ups and downs we've been through this year," Boone said. "Obviously, we have a long way to go, but I'm proud of those guys and what they were able to finish off and accomplish today. Hopefully it starts a special journey now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED ,
Voit helped keep the O's off the board in the 10th when he stabbed a low Chris Davis liner to save at least one run. Holder got out of the inning unscatched when Valera popped out to second.
This is the 54th postseason berth in franchise history (116 seasons, 45.7 percent). The Yankees have qualified for the postseason in 20 of the last 24 seasons since 1995, and they are going to consecutive postseasons for the first time since 2009-12. It is the Yankees' seventh Wild Card berth and their third appearance in the AL Wild Card Game.
HE SAID IT
"We end the season in Boston. I don't think any of us want to make that West Coast trip all the way back. That's why we want to keep winning. Playing in front of our fans, there's nothing like it. Getting a chance to play here at Yankee Stadium, it's pretty electric. You saw how it was last year." -- Judge
The Yankees conclude their final homestand of the regular season on Sunday, hosting the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander J.A. Happ (16-6, 3.62) has been tabbed to start for New York in what could be viewed as preparation for the AL Wild Card Game. Happ has pitched to an 0.50 ERA over his last three starts, allowing one earned run in 18 innings, and is 6-0 with a 2.39 ERA since joining the Yankees on July 26. Right-hander Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90) will start for Baltimore.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.