NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge hit his 44th home run, Aroldis Chapman pitched out of big trouble in the eighth inning and the New York Yankees edged the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Monday night to increase their AL wild-card lead.
Todd Frazier hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Jaime Garcia gave the Yankees a splendid performance against the team that traded him this year after only one start. New York, still chasing first-place Boston in the AL East, won the opener of a three-game series that could serve as a potential postseason preview two weeks from now.
The Yankees have built a five-game cushion for the league's top wild card with 12 to play. Minnesota is in the second spot, 1 1/2 games ahead of the idle Los Angeles Angels. So if the standings hold, New York will host the Twins in the one-game playoff on Oct. 3.
More Twins coverage
- Yankees slide past Twins 2-1
- Twins' offense heating up in September
- Twins rally from 5-0 deficit to beat Blue Jays
- Twins Final Pitch: Minnesota continues to bounce back
- WATCH: Twins' Mauer puts game out of reach with grand slam
Chapman replaced a wild Dellin Betances with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. The left-hander struck out three-time batting champion Joe Mauer, who hit a grand slam Sunday, and retired No. 3 hitter Byron Buxton on an easy fly, needing only four pitches that all reached at least 100 mph.
Chapman then worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 19th save in 23 chances. It was his third career regular-season save that required at least five outs -- and first since August 2013 with Cincinnati. The fireballing closer also had one in the World Series last year for the Chicago Cubs.
Judge homered to right-center in the first off hard-luck loser Ervin Santana (15-8), who won his previous four decisions. The All-Star righty gave up seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
David Robertson (9-2) retired all four hitters he faced, improving to 5-0 since the Yankees reacquired him from the Chicago White Sox in July.
Garcia struck out five of his first six batters and did not permit an earned run in 5 2/3 innings. He finished with nine strikeouts, equaling a season high.
Garcia was traded by Minnesota to the Yankees in late July, one day after a 6-3 win at Oakland in his lone start for the Twins -- the team's only victory during an eight-game stretch. They had acquired the veteran lefty from Atlanta to reinforce their rotation, but quickly moved him again before the non-waiver deadline when that short-lived slump dropped them in the standings and below .500.
Frazier made a diving stop at third base on an RBI groundout by Robbie Grossman in the fifth that tied it 1-all. Garcia then got Jason Castro to ground into an inning-ending double play.
CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.85 ERA) starts Tuesday night for the Yankees on seven days' rest. He needs one strikeout to match Mickey Lolich (2,832) for third place all-time among left-handers. Sabathia is 2-0 with a 3.14 ERA in five starts since returning last month from a brief stint on the DL due to right knee inflammation.
EASY WAY ON
Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury reached on catcher's interference for the fifth time this season, extending his major league record to 31 times in his career. Ellsbury, on a recent tear at the plate, also singled, stole two bases and was intentionally walked.
Twins: All-Star 3B Miguel Sano (left shin) is headed back to Minnesota on Tuesday after accompanying the team to New York for a personal matter. Sano is healing slowly, but the Twins hope to have him back before the season ends -- perhaps only as a DH.
Yankees: All-Star C Gary Sanchez was hit on the left forearm by a seventh-inning foul ball. He was checked by a trainer but stayed in the game. … OF Aaron Hicks (strained left oblique) did some tee and soft toss work. He said he feels really good and is close to taking batting practice. … DH Matt Holliday was rested in favor of switch-hitter Chase Headley, even though Holliday is 5 for 12 (.417) with two home runs against Santana. "Part of me wishes I could have 10 players in the lineup today," manager Joe Girardi said.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (12-7, 3.84) starts the middle game of the series. He beat the Yankees 6-1 in Minnesota on July 19.
Yankees: Sabathia is 18-9 with a 3.16 ERA against Minnesota, including 6-1 in 10 starts for the Yankees.