Twins fall in finale, unable to add WC cushion 21 Sep 17

NEW YORK – Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez launched back-to-back homers, and Didi Gregorius also went deep as the Yankees continued to fire on all cylinders in pursuit of a postseason berth, completing a series sweep of the Twins with an 11-3 victory on Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Judge connected for his American League-leading 45th homer and Sanchez hit his 32nd homer, tops among all big league catchers, as the Yankees thumped Bartolo Colon for six runs in 3 1/3 innings. Yankees batters collected 15 hits, eight for extra bases, as the Bombers (85-67) secured their 10th win in 12 games to move a season-high 18 games over .500.

“It was just an example of guys having quality at-bats all day,” Judge said. “We started off a little slow, and then we just turned it on. Hitting is contagious. Once one guy starts getting a couple of knocks, it just feeds into the next at-bat.”

Gregorius hit his 25th blast off Tyler Duffey as part of a six-run fourth inning, surpassing Derek Jeter’s 24 homers in 1999 to set a single-season mark for a Yankees shortstop. New York’s win keeps it three games behind Boston in the American League East after the Red Sox shut out the Orioles Wednesday night in Baltimore.

The sweep swelled the Yankees’ lead over the Twins for the first AL Wild Card to seven games. New York’s magic number to secure a postseason spot was reduced to three after the Angels lost to the Indians on Wednesday night in Anaheim. Minnesota leads the Angels by a game and a half for the second AL Wild Card spot.

“Obviously, we’re in a better spot than maybe we were Sept. 1, but there are no guarantees,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You have to continue to play well. If you’re fortunate enough to get into the playoffs, you want to be playing well at that time. We will continue to do everything we can to win every game and see where we fall.”

The Yankees’ bullpen filled in nicely behind Luis Severino, who exited early after throwing 46 pitches in the Twins’ two-run third inning. Severino tossed 71 pitches in all before yielding to Chasen Shreve, who earned the victory with three innings of scoreless, hitless relief.

“I’ve had better trips to New York,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Guys asked before the series about getting swept, and in reality, that’s what happened. We’ve got 10 games, and my goal right now is to get these guys back in a positive frame of mind.”