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MLB NOTEBOOK

Yankees make another statement, trounce Blue Jays again

Aaron Judge, shown bumping fists with Yankees coach Reggie Willits last week, was back in Aaron Boone's lineup on Wednesday for the first time since Aug. 26.
Aaron Judge, shown bumping fists with Yankees coach Reggie Willits last week, was back in Aaron Boone's lineup on Wednesday for the first time since Aug. 26.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Kyle Higashioka hit a career-high three home runs at Yankee Stadium, DJ LeMahieu connected twice, and the resurgent New York Yankees hit a season-best seven homers in another Bronx air show, thumping the Toronto Blue Jays, 13-2, on Wednesday night.

Luke Voit lofted a three-run drive for his major league-leading 19th homer and Clint Frazier added a solo shot as the Yankees won their seventh straight game following a 5-15 slide. New York moved 1½ games ahead of Toronto for second place in the AL East, with the top two teams ensured spots in the expanded postseason that begins in less than two weeks.

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LeMahieu, Voit, and Frazier also connected Tuesday — Voit homered twice — when New York hit six home runs and pummeled Toronto, 20-6. It’s the first time the Yankees have hit six homers in consecutive games.

Gerrit Cole (6-3) had another overpowering start, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth. The right-hander completed seven innings of three-hit ball, striking out eight and walking two. He also took a no-hitter into the fifth in his previous start — a seven-inning, two-hit shutout against Baltimore in the opener of a doubleheader Friday.

Aaron Judge was activated from the injured list but wasn’t much help, going hitless with three strikeouts. The two-time All-Star had been out since Aug. 26 after re-aggravating a strained right calf. Judge’s return gives manager Aaron Boone a full stable of position players after injuries to Judge, LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Gio Urshela nearly derailed New York’s season.

Lefthanded starter James Paxton, meanwhile, was transferred to the 45-day injured list with a left flexor tendon strain, ending his season.

Dodgers become first playoff qualifier

The Dodgers became the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the pandemic-shortened season, beating San Diego, 7-5, as Mookie Betts tied his career high with three stolen bases, plus two hits and a run scored. Los Angeles (35-15) moved to 3½ games ahead of San Diego (32-19) in pursuit of an eighth straight NL West title, though they’re still seeking a first World Series title since 1988. Fernando Tatis Jr., who had been considered the NL MVP front-runner recently, went 0 for 4 to extend his slump to 2 for 27 over eight games. His average has dropped from .314 to .281 . . . Rookie Luis García hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning and the Washington Nationals beat the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, in St. Petersburg, Fla. With Carter Kieboom on second base to start extra innings, the 20-year-old García hit a leadoff drive on the first pitch from Nick Anderson (1-1). Brandon Lowe had gotten the Rays even at 2 when he hit a solo homer off Daniel Hudson (2-2) on a 2-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth. Kyle McGowin struck out three in the 10th to get his first save. Tampa Bay, in contention for the top spot in the American League playoffs, completed a stretch of eight consecutive games against last-place teams at 3-5 . . . Adam Wainwright shook off an early home run and pitched a four-hitter, leading St. Louis past Milwaukee, 4-2, in the first game of a doubleheader. Wainwright (5-1) struck out nine in the seven-inning complete game as the Cardinals reached .500 in their bid for a spot in the expanded playoff field. His Cardinals lost the nightcap, 6-0, playing without manager Mike Shildt, who was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount “for actions that contributed to inciting the benches-clearing incident” in Milwaukee on Tuesday night during the Brewers' 18-3 victory. Ryan Braun, who sparked the fracas when he hit Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in the wrist during a swing, was one of three Brewers players hit by a pitch . . . Cole Hamels allowed three runs to the Baltimore Orioles before reaching his predetermined pitch count in the fourth inning, and Atlanta struggled offensively in a 5-1 loss at Camden Yards. The 36-year-old signed a one-year contract with Atlanta in December and was expected to be a major contributor in the rotation, but arrived at spring training with a sore shoulder and developed triceps tendinitis during summer camp . . . Mike Fiers (6-2) threw six sharp innings before turning it over to a lights-out bullpen and Oakland snapped a six-game skid against the Colorado Rockies with a 3-1 win in Denver. Next up, a well-earned day off for the Athletics, who went 9-7 playing 16 games in 13 days. Before the game, Colorado shut down starter Jon Gray for the season due to a sore right shoulder. The 28-year-old last pitched Sept. 1 before going on the injured list with what was described as inflammation. Gray finished the season 2-4 with a 6.69 ERA for the Rockies, another sub-.500 team in contention for a National League playoff spot . . . Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo pitched a masterful seven innings, Shogo Akiyama drove in the game’s only run, and the Reds moved into a virtual tie for second place in the National League Central with a 1-0 win over Pittsburgh . . . Major League Baseball has joined the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group of businesses pushing for higher voter turnout, with teams throughout the majors launching sites dedicated to voter education. Some ballparks are also set to be used as voting centers for the election.

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