Judge rules as Yankees clinch last-gasp playoff berth

Los Angeles (AFP) –


New York slugger Aaron Judge smacked a walk-off single to send the Yankees into the Major League Baseball playoffs on Sunday, facing a blockbuster wild card game against the Boston Red Sox.

It came down to the wire, but the Yankees clinched their fifth straight playoff berth and their 23rd trip to the post-season in the past 27 years with a nerve-jangling 1-0 home victory over Tampa Bay in their season finale.

Facing left-hander Josh Fleming, Yankees second baseman Rougned Odor started the ninth-inning rally with a single to center field.

Pinch-runner Tyler Wade tagged up on a deep flyout, Anthony Rizzo singled and Judge delivered a run-scoring single that deflected off Rays right-handed hurler Andrew Kittredge.

"Excited," Judge said after his first career walk-off hit. "Especially after today's game. It was a tough one. But everybody came to play.

"Our bullpen, our starting pitcher, what (Jameson Taillon) was able to do for us to start off the game and hold this (Rays) offense to nothing was big-time for us," Judge said.

"We've got a spot in the playoffs," he added. "All you've got to do is just get in."

The Yankees travel to Boston on Tuesday for a winner-take-all wild card game against a Red Sox team that secured their spot with a dramatic 7-5 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Boston's Rafael Devers belted two home runs, incuding a 447-foot blast to center field with one out in the top of the ninth inning that broke a tie and saw the Red Sox secure the top wild card spot in the American League.

Both the Yankees and Red Sox finished the regular-season with 92-70 records, but Boston edged the Yankees 10-9 in regular-season meetings to earn home field advantage.

The winner of the showdown will advance to a division series clash with the AL East division champion Rays, while the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros meet in the other AL division series.

The wins for the Yankees and the Red Sox extinguished the final flickering playoff hopes of the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners.

In the National League the final day of the season came down to positioning, and it was the San Francisco Giants who emerged with the NL West division title, ending the Los Angeles Dodgers' eight-year reign with an 11-4 rout of the San Diego Padres.

Logan Webb struck out eight in seven strong innings, belted his first career home run and reached base three times as the Giants grabbed the win they needed to deny the Dodgers, who capped the regular season with a 10-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Buster Posey drove in three runs and the Padres clinched the best record in baseball at 107-55, their top overall seed guaranteeing home-field advantage throughout the post-season.

- Dodgers host Cardinals -

The reigning World Series champion Dodgers became just the 11th team to win 106 games and not finish in first place.

They'll host the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday in the wild card game, with the Cardinals expected to start 40-year-old pitcher Adam Wainwright and the Dodgers to give the ball to three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.

The winner of the clash will go on to face the Giants in the NL division series. The Brewers will face the Atlanta Braves in the other NL division series.