TORONTO -- There were beaming faces and loud chatter as the Yankees prepared for a happy flight home on Thursday, having produced a successful trip by any reasonable measure, notching five wins in six games against teams still contending for an American League Wild Card berth.
Aaron Judge wanted more, an indication of the Yankees’ mindset as they returned to The Bronx for the final three games of the regular season -- and perhaps a deep run into October.
“I wish it was 6-0,” Judge said after the Yankees’ 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, a contest in which he homered twice. “We went out there, we played some tough opponents in some tough meaningful games. It wasn’t a postseason game, but it definitely had the atmosphere and the feel.”
And by the end of the six-game journey through Boston and Toronto, the Yankees were shaking hands on the infield turf, having grabbed a commanding position in the AL Wild Card chase. New York’s magic number to secure a playoff spot now sits at two with three games remaining, as the Yankees (91-68) took two of three from the Blue Jays in the series.
They hold a two-game advantage over the Red Sox (89-70) and Mariners (89-70) for the top Wild Card spot. Boston lost again to Baltimore, while Seattle was idle on Thursday. Toronto (88-71) is one game out of the second spot.
“This was as tough a trip as you’re going to face with everything on the line,” manager Aaron Boone said. “To go 5-1 against two really good clubs, it finishes off a really nice trip. We’re just getting started. We’ve got more to do.”
The assignment was to topple Robbie Ray, who has edged Gerrit Cole as the front-running candidate for the AL Cy Young Award. The Yankees managed only four hits against the left-hander, but they all left the ballpark. Judge homered twice, Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres also went deep off Ray and Brett Gardner added a late shot off the Blue Jays’ bullpen.
Judge opened scoring with a 455-foot blast in the first inning, reaching the rarely visited third deck in straightaway center field.
“I didn’t know if I hit it too high and it wasn’t going to go out, so I didn’t enjoy it too much,” Judge said. “I’ll check the replays and kind of see where it went.”
Ray settled in after the initial blow, retiring 13 consecutive Yankees from the second inning into the sixth. Rizzo snapped the string, launching his 250th career homer and tying the game. Judge followed with a go-ahead 441-foot blast into the batter’s eye, marking Judge’s sixth multi-homer game of the year and the eighth time that the Yanks have gone back-to-back.
“He’s a superstar in this league,” Rizzo said of Judge. “Him and G [Giancarlo Stanton], what they’ve been doing, you sit back and have a front-row seat every day. It’s fun to watch. Every day they’re ready to bring it, and we all feed off that energy.”
A walk to Stanton followed, and Torres chased Ray with a two-run shot to left field, Torres’ ninth long ball of 2021. Gardner’s long ball came off Julian Merryweather in the ninth.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Judge said. “The job’s not finished. We’ve got to keep going. Even if we can clinch tomorrow, you’ve still got two more at home [against the Rays], and we want that home-field advantage.”
Built around power, the Yankees will likely go as far as their bats take them. As they wait on the postseason’s doorstep, their potential rotation is taking shape. Michael King picked up the victory with 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Corey Kluber, who limited the Jays to two runs and seven hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Corey Dickerson connected for a run-scoring double in the second inning and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. muscled a double off the top of the center-field wall in the fifth against Kluber, whose next outing would come in a postseason setting -- either the AL Wild Card Game or the AL Division Series, depending on how Gerrit Cole is deployed.
“That’s a pretty good [Blue Jays] lineup,” Kluber said. “I think that was as tough of a test as you’re probably going to find in this league. I feel good about the spot that I’m in. I think that everybody in there is in a good place right now. I think we’re all looking forward to bigger and better things.”