MLB Playoff Picture 2021: Yankees Win, Red Sox Loss Shake Up AL Wild Card Race

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVOctober 1, 2021

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 30: New York Yankees Outfield Aaron Judge (99) celebrates with New York Yankees Designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) his home run during the New York Yankees versus the Toronto Blue Jays game on September 30, 2021, at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Yankees gained some separation in the American League wild-card race, although three other teams remain close after an eventful Thursday night of baseball.

The Yankees came from behind against the Toronto Blue Jays for a 6-2 win over the fellow contenders, while the Boston Red Sox suffered a disappointing 6-2 loss to the last-place Baltimore Orioles. It meant the Seattle Mariners were one of the biggest winners of the night despite not playing.

New York now holds a two-game lead over the competition with three games remaining, while Boston and Seattle are tied for the second spot. Toronto remains one game out of playoff position.

The Blue Jays were seemingly in good shape early in the night with a 2-1 lead and Cy Young contender Robbie Ray on the mound. That was until a brutal sixth inning knocked him out of the game and changed the outlook of the postseason race.

The Yankees hit three home runs as part of a four-run inning to take control of the game:

YES Network @YESNetwork

What a way to hit your 2️⃣5️⃣0️⃣th career homer!!! Anthony Rizzo goes deep and ties the game! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/YANKSonYES?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#YANKSonYES</a> <a href="https://t.co/QnrP19sQDG">pic.twitter.com/QnrP19sQDG</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

AARON JUDGE AGAIN<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLB</a>)<a href="https://t.co/EqltG8ITJo">pic.twitter.com/EqltG8ITJo</a>

YES Network @YESNetwork

Gleyber Torres gets in on the fun! 3️⃣ Yankees home runs this inning off the Cy Young favorite, Ray's night is over, and the Yankees lead 5-2! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/YANKSonYES?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#YANKSonYES</a> <a href="https://t.co/bBJHdRJ9AS">pic.twitter.com/bBJHdRJ9AS</a>

Aaron Judge hit a home run in the middle of that run, continuing what was already an impressive game for the outfielder:

New York Yankees @Yankees

455 ft to get us started. <a href="https://t.co/JwjUStWYWa">pic.twitter.com/JwjUStWYWa</a>

Sarah Langs @SlangsOnSports

Aaron Judge tonight:<br><br>455 ft HR<br>441 ft HR<br><br>He's the 2nd Yankees player with multiple 440+ ft HR in a game tracked by Statcast (since 2015), joining:<br><br>Alex Rodriguez, 7/25/15

YES Network @YESNetwork

He hits a home run, he saves a run!<br><br>Aaron Judge doing it all tonight!!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/YANKSonYES?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#YANKSonYES</a> <a href="https://t.co/9ikJOsENfE">pic.twitter.com/9ikJOsENfE</a>

Jason Page @TheBackPage

Aaron Judge…<br><br>That is all.<br><br>MVP-caliber performance.

It was all the Yankees bullpen needed to close out the win as four pitchers combined for 4.1 scoreless innings with just three hits allowed. 

New York has now won five of the last six games to move to the brink of a postseason spot.

The other big game of the day featured only one team still trying to reach the playoffs, but it was the Orioles that came out on top against the Red Sox.

Ryan Mountcastle had the big hit with a three-run shot to take the lead in the third inning:

B/R Walk-Off @BRWalkoff

Ryan. Mountcastle.<br><br>3-run homer for the rookie 😤<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/Orioles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Orioles</a>)<a href="https://t.co/uuSbqDRN0H">pic.twitter.com/uuSbqDRN0H</a>

StatsCentre @StatsCentre

Hitting a 3-run shot in the 3rd inning tonight, Ryan Mountcastle has given the <a href="https://twitter.com/Orioles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Orioles</a> a 3-1 lead vs the Red Sox. With it, he also ties Jose Canseco (1986) for 4th in single season home runs by an American League rookie younger than 25 (tied for 9th among AL rookies of all ages) <a href="https://t.co/OWAktDVdr4">pic.twitter.com/OWAktDVdr4</a>

Another rookie, Tyler Nevin, expanded the lead for Baltimore with a two-RBI single in the sixth inning.

The Red Sox offense couldn't keep up, scoring just one run against starter Alexander Wells in six innings. The left-hander entered the day with a 7.61 ERA but had the best start of his career against Boston.

It led to the fifth loss in five games for the Red Sox, which are suddenly in a dangerous spot in the standings after an impressive season. The squad will have to turn things around over the weekend with a road series against the Washington Nationals. The Mariners, meanwhile, will look to keep pace while traveling to face the Los Angeles Angels. 

The Yankees will close their season with a three-game series at home against the Tampa Bay Rays and can clinch a playoff spot as soon as Friday. The Blue Jays have the easiest matchup at home against the Orioles, but the last-place team has shown it can play the role of spoiler.