Judge hits No. 44 in Yankees’ win over Twins

Published 7:42 am Tuesday, September 19, 2017

NEW YORK  — Aaron Judge hit his 44th home run, Aroldis Chapman pitched out of big trouble in the eighth inning and the New York Yankees edged the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Monday night to increase their AL wild-card lead.

Todd Frazier hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Jaime Garcia gave the Yankees a splendid performance against the team that traded him this year after only one start. New York, still chasing first-place Boston in the AL East, won the opener of a three-game series that could serve as a potential postseason preview two weeks from now.

The Yankees have built a five-game cushion for the league’s top wild card with 12 to play. Minnesota is in the second spot, 1 1/2 games ahead of the idle Los Angeles Angels. So if the standings hold, New York will host the Twins in the one-game playoff on Oct. 3.

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Chapman replaced a wild Dellin Betances with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. The left-hander struck out three-time batting champion Joe Mauer, who hit a grand slam Sunday, and retired No. 3 hitter Byron Buxton on an easy fly.