NEW YORK -- It didn't take long for Aaron Judge to remind Yankees fans -- and Athletics pitchers -- just how dangerous his bat can be in October.
Judge set the tone for the Yanks in Wednesday night's American League Wild Card Game, crushing a two-run home run in the first inning to give New York a lead it would never relinquish.
• ALDS presented by T-Mobile, Game 1: Fri., 7:32 p.m. ET on TBS
The Yankees rolled to a 7-2 win over the Athletics to earn a trip to the AL Division Series, where they'll face the rival Red Sox in Game 1 Friday night at Fenway Park to open the best-of-five showdown.
:: AL Wild Card Game schedule and results ::
"That Wild Card Game is no joke; it takes years off of you," Judge said, wiping champagne from his eyes as he and his teammates celebrated their latest October victory. "We were prepared, just like Oakland. It was a tough game, a fun game; you live for those moments. Any big moment like that, you enjoy those situations. You enjoy the pressure. Your back's against the wall; that's what this team is all about."
Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the first with a walk against Oakland's Liam Hendriks, the reliever serving as the team's opener in the win-or-go-home game. Judge stepped up and worked the count to 2-1 before unloading on a 96.4-mph fastball, drilling it over the left-field fence.
"Bam," manager Aaron Boone said. "All of a sudden it's 2-0."
"We put the dagger in early," Giancarlo Stanton said. "You get up early and it's a confidence boost in this environment that they won't come back."
It was Judge's fifth career postseason home run, but perhaps more importantly, his second in his past three games, dating back to Friday's series opener at Fenway. Judge, who missed seven weeks with a fractured right wrist, had gone homerless in his first 11 games after returning from the disabled list on Sept. 14, though he insisted that he's felt 100 percent since the moment he returned.
"I wouldn't have been playing the past couple of weeks if it wasn't good," Judge said. "I felt like that the first game I was back. I felt like I never left."
Judge's home run had an exit velocity of 116.1 mph, making it the hardest-hit postseason home run since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. That mark lasted all of seven innings, as Stanton's 117.4-mph shot to left field in the eighth took over the top spot.
"Just like G normally does," Judge said. "What a moonshot; I was looking for that thing to go out of the Stadium, he hit it so far."
Informed that his home run was the hardest postseason blast in the Statcast™ era, Stanton shot back, "Yeah? Well, I've still got time to hit harder."
Although Judge's homer sent the 49,620 at Yankee Stadium into a frenzy, the fans had a head start following Luis Severino's dominant top of the first. Severino, a questionable choice in some people's eyes to start the game after struggling in the second half of the season, struck out two and looked like his first-half self.
• Year after rough WC, Sevy K's 7 over 4-plus innings
"The most important thing was getting out of the top of the first; Severino did that for us," Judge said. "I was just feeding off what he did for us in the top of the first, tried to put a good swing after Cutch had a great at-bat. The crowd was so fired up."
"It's big, that home run, that inning, for me and for the team," Severino said. "When you've got two runs and a score like that, you go out there and you feel more calm."
Judge finished the night 2-for-3 with the home run and a double, a chopper that scooted over first base in the sixth inning. He quickly came around to score on Aaron Hicks' double, giving the Yanks a 3-0 lead. They would score three more runs in the inning.
Now it's on to Boston to face the AL East champion Red Sox, a team with which the Yankees are quite familiar after playing 19 times during the regular season.
"It's going to be a tough series," Judge said. "They've got a great team, great pitching staff. We're going to do our homework, get prepared and be ready for a dogfight."
• Judge's double bounces foul outside batter's box
Did you know? Judge's postseason dominance
• With four home runs in seven games, Judge is tied with Robinson Cano (in 20 games) for the most postseason homers at the current Yankee Stadium.
• Judge and Reggie Jackson are the only Yankees with four home runs in their first seven home postseason games.
• Judge is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with nine runs, four doubles, four homers, 12 RBIs and six walks in postseason games at Yankee Stadium.
• Judge has at least one extra-base hit and one RBI in five straight postseason home games, tied for the longest such streak in history (Craig Monroe, Al Simmons, Ruben Sierra, Jim Thome, Larry Walker).
• Judge is tied for the Yanks' third-longest home RBI streak in postseason history.