NEW YORK — On a must-win night in which the New York Yankees did their share of talking with a few powerful bats, it was what their fans kept saying that told the real story.
“We want Boston.”
Chanted between claps, the refrain reverberated throughout Yankee Stadium often during Wednesday’s American League wild-card game against the Oakland Athletics.
“We want Boston.”
From the seats behind home plate to the bleachers to the top of the nosebleeds, those three words echoed a sentiment shared by the Yankees themselves. Deep down, since the night two weeks ago when the Boston Red Sox celebrated winning the AL East in the Bronx, the Bombers have desired their own victory party.
“We want Boston.”
Well, now they have the Red Sox. And given what the world saw Wednesday night when a 7-2 win advanced the Yankees past the A’s and into the AL Division Series, there’s no better time for New York to exact some revenge against its rival.
In early August, when the Yankees were swept at Fenway Park in the last meaningful series between the teams (the six September meetings had no real bearing on the playoff picture), New York was missing one important cog to its offensive machine.
It didn’t have Aaron Judge.
Now, it does. This time when the Yankees and Red Sox meet with so much on the line, Judge — healthy after a seven-week stint on the disabled list because of a wrist injury — and fellow Bomber Giancarlo Stanton both will be playing. As Oakland’s pitchers learned, that’s a dangerous combination.
“When you have power and patience, it makes you a dangerous lineup,” Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks said.
A hard early swing from Judge on Wednesday helped prove Hicks’ point.
The swing, which shot the ball off Judge’s bat with a 116.1-mph exit velocity, produced a two-run home run and a 2-0 lead only nine pitches into the bottom of the first. The 427-foot blast into the left-field seats came right after leadoff man Andrew McCutchen drew a five-pitch walk.
Judge claimed the electricity in the crowd helped fuel his quick start at the plate.
“I was feeding off it during the national anthem,” Judge said from the victorious clubhouse as freshly splashed champagne glistened off the goggles atop his head. “It was like the last couple of seconds of the national anthem, I couldn’t even hear the ending because the crowd started getting so loud.
“That’s Yankee Stadium for you.”
Right after speaking to one group of reporters, Judge continued to celebrate his team’s win as well as his banner night — one that ended with him going 2-for-3 with the homer, a double and two runs scored — by grabbing a champagne bottle, shaking it up and dousing first baseman Luke Voit as he held court in a separate interview session.
It was indicative of the mood in the Yankees’ clubhouse. The superstar’s glee was indicative of the release of pent-up emotions he had from a challenging season, one that saw his return from the late July wrist injury delayed about a month after its original target date.
Wednesday’s performance proved that perhaps the patience paid off.
“He put the dagger in early,” Stanton said. “You get up early, it’s tough, especially in this environment, to come back.”
After Judge’s first-inning home run, starting pitcher Luis Severino and his bullpen mates were able to roll.
“That homer in the first inning, the confidence [after] was big,” Severino said. “We knew there after that, it’s over.”
Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge get sprayed with champagne during the Yankees’ locker room celebration.
In the eighth inning, with the Yankees holding a 6-2 lead, Stanton added the finishing touches by launching a prodigious blast into the second deck that left his teammates gawking.
As soon as Stanton made contact with the hanging 89.7-mph slider from Blake Treinen, he stood in the batter’s box for a moment to admire the ball’s soaring elevation before easing into a trot up the first-base line.
“That’s just like G normally does, man,” Judge said, smiling. “What a moonshot. I was looking for that thing to go out of the stadium he hit it so far.”
Stanton’s shot left the field with a 117.4-mph exit velocity, making it the hardest-hit postseason home run of the Statcast era (since 2015). Judge’s first-inning blast had been the previous hardest-hit homer. To illustrate how distinctive such exit velocities are, consider this: During the regular season, 17 teams didn’t hit a single ball at 116 mph.
Judge and Stanton hit 31 balls at 116 mph or faster in the regular season themselves.
“For G to hit that bomb — God dang. We’re clicking, man,” Voit said. “I kept saying that we’ve been clicking for these last couple of weeks. But it’s coming together. So it’s going to be a scary lineup.”
Recent weeks have been kind to both Stanton and Judge. This was Stanton’s fourth homer in as many games, and it was Judge’s second since homering at Fenway during last weekend’s final series of the regular season.
Wednesday marked the fourth time this season that both Judge and Stanton homered in the same game. The Yankees have won each of those games.
Once Stanton’s home run ball settled in the stands 443 feet away, the raucous, rambunctious Yankee Stadium crowd began buzzing once more: “We want Boston.”
Boston, here come the Yankees.
Just as Judge believes he was energized by the Yankee Stadium crowd Wednesday, the Yankees as a whole are looking to continue to feed off him as they open the ALDS on Friday.
“He’s our leader, he’s our captain, and we rely on him,” Voit said. “He came up big for us.”