Aaron Judge walked four times and stayed at 60 home runs, one shy of Roger Maris’ American League record, as the New York Yankees clinched the AL East title by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 on Tuesday night.
The Yankees celebrated their 20th division championship, tied for second-most with the Dodgers behind Atlanta’s 21, but not home run history. New York (95-59) secured a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the Division Series.
Judge lined out in his first at-bat and then drew four straight walks in his seventh straight game without a home run. The Yankees have eight games left in the regular season for Judge to tie or break the AL mark set by Maris in 1961.
Despite the loss, Toronto (87-68) maintained their place atop the AL wild-card standings.
Elsewhere, Paul Goldschmidt and St Louis clinched the NL Central title by beating Milwaukee behind six strong innings from Miles Mikolas. Andrew Knizner hit a two-run homer and Goldschmidt added two RBIs as St Louis sealed their first division crown since 2019 and fourth straight playoff berth by defeating the team that won last year’s NL Central championship.
The Cardinals (90-65) guaranteed themselves at least a tie with second-place Milwaukee (82-72), and they now own the tiebreaker because the victory on Tuesday gave St Louis an insurmountable 10-8 lead in the season series.
The Brewers remain 1.5 games behind Philadelphia for the final NL wildcard. The Phillies won the season series with Milwaukee and would get the playoff bid if the two teams end up tied.
Meanwhile, history was made in New York on Monday night. Miami Marlins pitcher Richard Bleier became the first player since 1900 to balk three times in the same at-bat. Balking is an illegal motion by a pitcher – often a flinch – that results in each runner on base advancing. During Monday’s game against the Mets, Bleier was called for a balk three times while Pete Alonso was at bat in the eighth inning. The penalties allowed Jeff McNeil, who began the at-bat on first, to advance round the bases and score. It made little difference to the result of the game, which the Marlins won 6-4.
Bleier said after the game that he felt he had been judged unfairly.
“It’s the same move I’ve been doing for 300 innings, and here we are,” Bleier said. “Maybe I was balking. I watched the video. I completely disagreed, but I’m biased, so I don’t know.”
The Mets’ loss put them in a tie for first-place in the NL East with the Atlanta Braves. The teams face each other this weekend in a series that is likely to decide who wins the division. MLS is understood to be making contingency plans if Hurricane Ian disrupts the series, something which could impinge on the playoff schedule.