LOS ANGELES -- As the clock moved minutes from the first pitch of Sunday's game at Dodger Stadium, Aaron Judge peered out of the visiting dugout and scanned the decks of the 57-year-old ballpark, already pulsating with the energy of a sellout crowd on hand to witness an event masquerading as a ballgame.
The entire weekend at Chavez Ravine felt like a big deal, an opportunity for the clubs owning the best records in the Majors to appreciate a shared history, their current success and just maybe -- as Judge agreed after the Yankees' 5-1 victory over the Dodgers -- a future that could see them face off again in autumn.
"If it lines up that way, it'd be great to see them," Judge said. "They're a great team and anything can happen in the postseason. We'd be excited for that opportunity."
The Yankees' blueprint for chasing their 28th World Series championship is centered around slugging homers and locking games down with their power bullpen, a formula that they executed with aplomb to topple Clayton Kershaw and take the finale of the three-game series.
"I don't think there was any question that guys were excited to come here and play against a great team," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "I thought the guys really performed all weekend. They love these environments. It's good to see them go out and contribute in a big way."
It is worth mentioning that, should these powerhouses meet in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1981, Sunday's game could carry great meaning. If the Yanks (85-47) and Dodgers (86-46) finish with identical regular season records, the Yanks' 2-1 head-to-head record would be used as the tiebreaker for home-field advantage.
DJ LeMahieu pounced on the game's third pitch to set a new Major League team record for home runs in a calendar month, then Judge and Mike Ford added deep drives off Kershaw to give the club 61 in August. That surpassed the record of 58 previously shared by the Orioles (May 1987) and Mariners (May 1999).
"We hit homers. We've got good hitters," Boone said. "Good power hitters up and down the lineup, a lot of guys capable. We’re going to have those kinds of marks fall every now and then."
It all supported a strong effort from Domingo German, who notched his Major League-leading 17th victory. Settling in after Joc Pederson's leadoff homer, German limited Los Angeles to a run and five hits over six innings, marking the Yanks’ 18th win in his 22 starts.
"I calmed myself down and found a groove," German said through a translator. "I faced each hitter pitch by pitch and just slowed myself down."
Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined for three scoreless, hitless innings, helping New York improve to 23-0 when all four of their most-trusted relievers appear together.
"This series, they pitched us well," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I don’t think this series changed my thought that these are two very good ballclubs, but we both have a lot of work to do if there is a potential [World Series] matchup."
Judge, who had promised a fan during batting practice that he would “hit one for you tonight," followed through in the third inning by cracking another of Kershaw’s trademark curves over the wall in right-center. The slugger has now homered in three straight games and four of six on this trip.
"You could feel the playoff atmosphere in the moment," Judge said. "The crowd was getting rowdy even before the first pitch. You love that as a player. That's why we play."
Ford was inserted as a third-inning pinch-hitter in place of Didi Gregorius, who sustained a right shoulder contusion when he was hit by a Kershaw fastball in the first inning. X-rays were negative on Gregorius, who is listed as day to day.
Saying that he was "just trying to see the ball" in his first at-bat, Ford produced New York’s third big swing of the game in the sixth, slugging his sixth Major League homer over the right-field wall. The rookie then added a run-scoring double off Pedro Baez in the eighth.
“Even the guys off the bench, you saw today with Mike Ford, he comes in off the bench and hits a homer off one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game,” Judge said. “That doesn't happen too often. It speaks volumes to what type of team we have.”