NEW YORK – Aaron Judge got the party started with a two-run homer nine pitches in. By the time Giancarlo Stanton capped the mauling with monstrous drive in his postseason debut, New York Yankees fans already were looking ahead.
“We want Boston!” they chanted.
Coming up next.
“It’s going to be intense,” CC Sabathia predicted after the Yankees pounded the Oakland Athletics 7-2 on Wednesday night to win their second straight AL wild-card game.
New York will take a train to Boston for a best-of-five American League Division Series starting Friday night, a matchup of 100-win heavyweights.
“I think they’re ready and relish the opportunity to go up against the game’s best this year,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of his players.
Boone remains a dirty word among the Fenway Park faithful. His 11th-inning homer in Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series beat the Red Sox. A year later, Boston overcame the Yankees and became the first major league team to rally from a 3-0 postseason deficit. The Red Sox went on to win their first World Series since 1918, but Boone’s drive off Tim Wakefield has not been forgotten or forgiven.
Boston went 10-9 against the Yankees this year and set a club record with 108 wins. New York became the first team since the 2001 A’s to reach triple digits in wins and fail to finish first.
“We’ve just got to do our homework and come out swinging,” said Luke Voit, who broke open the game with a two-run triple in a four-run sixth.
Luis Severino atoned for last year’s flop in the wild-card game against Minnesota, pitching no-hit ball into the fifth, Dellin Betances entered with two on and got six straight outs and the Yankees went on to extend their home postseason winning streak to seven.
Severino let out a primal scream after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fourth with a 99.6 mph (160.3) fastball — his fastest pitch of the night — to strike out Marcus Semien.
Yankees fans fretted about an all-or-nothing knockout match, thinking back to last year when Severino fell behind Minnesota 3-0 just 10 pitches in. New York rallied for an 8-4 win against the Twins, but the memory remained raw.
Severino retired his first three batters in order on 10 pitches
“I think the first inning was huge for me, after all the stuff that people say on social media, all of that stuff,” he explained.
Andrew McCutchen walked leading off the bottom half of the first against reliever-turned starter Liam Hendricks, and Judge hit a drive over the left-field scoreboard, joining Reggie Jackson as the only Yankees with four home runs in their first seven postseason home games.
“I was already excited from the national anthem on,” said Judge, who hit his second homer since returning in mid-September after missing seven weeks with a broken right wrist.
Short on options, A’s manager Bob Melvin opted for baseball’s latest fad: starting a reliever. Hendriks (the loser) had not allowed a home run since June 24, the night before he was cut from the major league roster.
“Got into some bad counts and they made me pay,” Hendriks said.
Voit’s two-run triple missed a home run by inches. Stanton added a 443-foot drive off closer Blake Treinen in the eighth that landed in left field’s second deck, completing a power show by the team that set a major league record for most home runs in a season. Stanton’s drive left the bat at 117.4 mph and Judge’s 116.1 mph, the hardest-hit postseason home runs since measuring began in 2015.
A sellout crowd enjoyed one of those boisterous Bronx celebrations that used to be an October staple.
“Early in the game they’re going to be loud. It’s our job to try to take them out of it,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “This is a tough ballpark to play in.”
Oakland has lost eight straight winner-take-all postseason games since beating Willie Mays and the New York Mets in Game 7 of the 1973 World Series, and dropped all four of their postseason matchups against the Yankees.
“It’s pretty hard but I’m not disappointed at all,” said big league home run champion Khris Davis, who hit a two-run homer off Zach Britton in the eighth. “I think we showed some people we can do some things and I think next year, we’re a little bit more of a threat.”