BOSTON (AP) — The AL wild-card game will be in the Bronx, where the New York Yankees bats have always felt at home.
The Yankees cleared the Fenway fences four times on Friday night to tie the major league single-season home run record, clinching home-field advantage for the upcoming one-game playoff against Oakland with a 11-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
The win in the opener of the three-game series settled the AL’s last remaining postseason question with two games to go. The Yankees will host the Athletics on Wednesday for the right to play Boston in the divisional round.
“That’s an exhale right there, for the moment,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “Now we can start working on getting ready as best as we can for that Wednesday game. It’s nice to finish that off.”
The Red Sox, who clinched the best record in baseball with a franchise-record 107 wins, were hoping to make things difficult for their archrivals — and the A’s, too — by forcing the winner of the wild-card game to fly cross-country next week. The ALDS begins in Boston on Friday.
Instead, the Yankees will sleep in their own beds, and play in the park where they were 53-28 while hitting 144 home runs.
“It’s not the end-all, be-all by any means,” Boone said. “But when push comes to shove you want to be at home.”
Reigning Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge hit his first homer since coming off the disabled list Sept. 14, and Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit also homered to give the Yankees 264 home runs for the season. That matches the mark set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.
J.A. Happ (17-6) pitched three perfect innings and allowed just one hit through five. Staked to an 8-0 lead, he loaded the bases in the sixth for Steve Pearce’s grand slam but got Rafael Devers on a groundout to end the inning.
In all, Happ allowed four runs on four hits and two walks, striking out seven in six innings. He would be on regular rest for the wild-card game.
“I’d love to get the nod,” he said. “But I think we’re going to feel good with whoever is out there.”
Sanchez homered to lead off the third, just his second homer and fourth hit of any kind in two weeks. Hicks hit a three-run shot in New York’s six-run fourth. Voit hit a solo shot in the seventh and Judge hit his 27th of the year in the eighth to make it 11-4.
Boone said he wouldn’t have expected to set home run records in a season without Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hitting 50 apiece. Judge battled injuries after hitting 52 as a rookie; Stanton dropped from 59 to 37.
Twelve players hit 10 or more homers and six topped 20.
“We’re getting a lot of production from a lot of guys,” Boone said.
Boston scored once and loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth against Dellin Betances, but Eduardo Nunez lined out to second to end it. The Red Sox loaded the bases in the ninth before Zach Britton walked Xander Bogaerts to score a run and cut the deficit to 11-6.
But Pearce grounded out on a 3-2 pitch to third base to end it, giving the Yankees their 99th win.
“I loved the way we fought,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Got to Betances; got to Britton. We had the big inning against Happ.”
PASSING THE MESSAGE
Pearce is 6 for 32 with six homers against Happ in his career. Asked why he’s struggled so much to keep Pearce in the park, Happ said with a smile, “I don’t know, why don’t you go over there and ask him why it’s so easy for him. I’d like to know what he says.”
(When that was relayed to Pearce, he also smiled and said, “It’s not easy. He’s a good pitcher.”)
FOR THE RECORD
Red Sox left-hander Brian Johnson (4-5) allowed two runs in three innings and left with a 2-0 deficit. William Cuevas came out to start the fourth and gave up six runs on six hits and a walk while getting just one out.
Miguel Andujar’s fourth-inning double was his 44th of the season, tying Joe DiMaggio for the record by a Yankees rookie.
Second base umpire Andy Fletcher appeared to hurt his calf while calling Andujar safe on the play. The game was completed using three umpires. According to Major League Baseball, Fletcher sustained a muscular injury and will need further evaluation but will likely be replaced for the rest of the series.
Yankees: SS Didi Grigorius returned to the lineup for the first time since Saturday because of torn cartilage in his right wrist. Hicks also returned to the lineup; he missed two games with tightness in his left hamstring.
RHP Lance Lynn (9-10) is scheduled to face RHP Nathan Eovaldi.
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