TORONTO (AP) Gerrit Cole pitched a two-hitter to near his second AL ERA title, Aaron Judge homered twice and the New York Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-0 on Wednesday night to ensure they won’t finish with a losing record.
Cole (15-4) faced two batters over minimum, allowing a single and double to Brandon Belt.
“That’s just a clinic in pitching,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I think it embodied his season right there. Just fun to watch him go do that and absolutely put an exclamation point on the Cy Young Award with that performance.”
Pitching his second straight game against Toronto, Cole said he treated the pair of starts “like a little playoff situation” to give himself extra energy.
“Knowing that this is back-to-back outings against a club that’s fighting for a playoff position and obviously a formidable offense with a lot of All-Stars, I wasn’t going to come in here and not be on it,” he said.
Cole struck out five and walked none, throwing 72 of 105 pitches for strikes. He finished his season with 222 strikeouts in 209 innings.
“That was the cherry on top to an incredible season out of him,” Judge said.
Bidding for his first Cy Young, Cole lowered his AL-leading ERA to 2.63. Minnesota’s Sonny Gray is second at 2.80 and is scheduled to make his final regular-season start Thursday. Gray needs to pitch 12 scoreless innings to lower his ERA below Cole’s.
Cole also leads the AL in innings (209), opponents batting average (.206) and WHIP (0.98).
“This is Gerrit Cole’s era, that’s for sure,” Judge said. “He’s the benchmark for what an ace is supposed to be like on and off the field.”
Toronto was shut out by the Yankees for the second straight night. The Blue Jays (87-71) are in position for the second AL wild card, a half-game ahead of Houston (87-72) and two games in front of Seattle (85-73).
Making his 300th start, Cole pitched his fifth career shutout and eighth complete game. His other complete game this year was a two-hit shutout of Minnesota on April 16.
“I thought he got better as the game went on,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said.
The 33-year-old right-hander went 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA over his final seven starts. He won the 2019 AL ERA title at 2.50 with Houston.
With no more chances to make his Cy Young case, Cole was asked whether he allowed his award candidacy to sink in.
“I’m on my second Labatts, so …” he replied with a smile.
Cole improved to 8-2 in 16 starts against Toronto, including 2-0 with a 0.31 ERA in four games this season.
New York (81-77) started 36-25 and dropped to 62-68, then won 19 of 28. Boston’s loss assured the Yankees will not finish last in the AL East - New York last ended in the cellar in 1990.
“This obviously hasn’t been the season we wanted but these guys have continued to play and show up with the right energy and focus,” Boone said.
The Yankees are 16-8 in September.
Back in the lineup after a day off Tuesday, Judge hit his 36th and 37th home runs. The reigning AL MVP homered to right field off José Berríos (11-12) in the fourth, then hit a second-deck drive to left off Trevor Richards in the seventh. Judge had his 34th multihomer game, including seven this season.
“Kind of fitting that Aaron has that night on the night Gerrit probably locks up the Cy Young Award,” Boone said. “Fun to watch two great, great players do their thing.”
Giancarlo Stanton doubled the lead with a two-run single in the fourth.
Berríos (11-12) lost to the Yankees for the second straight start, allowing four runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out a season-high 10.
The Blue Jays were blanked in consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 26 and 27, 2022 against the Angels.
Yankees center fielder Estevan Florial made a leaping catch at the wall to retire Bo Bichette for the first out of the fourth.
SWINGING NEW STICKS
Toronto Maple Leafs players Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Morgan Reilly and William Nylander took batting practice before the game.
Toronto Raptors rookie forward Gradey Dick threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Blue Jays RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.74 ERA) was expected to start against New York RHP Luke Weaver (3-5, 6.47) on Thursday.
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