‘This was for the city’: Aaron Judge helps Yankees get back on track in emotional 9/11 game vs. Mets

It was a night where all of New York came together, two teams celebrating as one Saturday on the emotional 20th anniversary of 9/11.

But let’s be honest, this is still a Yankees’ town.

The Yankees, who had another team meeting after their seventh consecutive loss Friday, reminded New York fans not to give up on them, showing their resolve and resiliency in a wild 8-7 victory over the Mets in front of 43,144 witnesses at Citi Field.

The Yankees are far from a juggernaut, and aren’t about to catch the Tampa Bay Rays atop the AL East, but the Yanks are tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for the second wild-card spot and are just one game behind the Boston Red Sox for the top wild-card berth. Five teams are still hanging around a flawed wild-card race, bunched within two games of one another in the loss column.

“We wanted to remind guys that, ‘hey, we’re still in the playoff hunt,’ ’’ said Aaron Judge, who spoke at the team meeting Friday night, and hit two homers 24 hours later. “The world isn’t crumbling around us. We’re the New York Yankees. …

“I know when it comes to playoff time, a lot of teams aren’t going to want to play the New York Yankees.’’

Of course, they’ve got to get to the postseason first.
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge is greeted in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the second inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

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This is a team that had lost seven consecutive games, dropping 11 of 13 overall, and blew a five-run lead in Saturday night’s game only to show their resiliency by coming back.

Maybe it’s the start of a September stretch to remember, or perhaps only a tease.

Time will tell.

“I believe in this team,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I believe in this group. It’s been ugly at times, but I don’t think (our) group will ever lose confidence (in) what we’re doing when we’re at our best.’’

Yet, they needed that team meeting in which Judge spoke to remind themselves they do have a world of talent, that they belong in the playoffs, and, of course, that they are the Yankees.

“I don’t like doing it,’’ said Judge, one of four players who spoke at the meeting. “I don’t want to do it. We’re family in that room. But it builds our bond a little stronger, and we came out with a chip on our shoulder.’’

Judge, who’s hitting .341 with 10 homers and 28 RBI in his last 33 games, certainly isn’t ready to have an early vacation. He hit a homer in the second inning for a 5-0 Yankees’ lead, and a two-run shot in the eighth inning to tie game, 7-7.

The trouble was that between Judge’s homers the Yankees went 0-for-16 with eight strikeouts until Brett Gardner’s eighth-inning single, which Judge followed with his second homer. He even helped save the game in the ninth with a sprawling catcher on Javier Baez’s line drive to left field.

“He can impact the game in so many ways,’’ Yankees starter Corey Kluber said. “He’s a very underrated outfielder. Hes a good baserunner. There’s numerous ways he can help a team win a game, and tonight he showed a lot of them.’’

Judge also turned a poignant evening into a celebratory one, with the Yankees taking great pride in their role in the anniversary, letting their fans know they’re not about to bow out of this wild-card race meekly.

“It was a beautiful night, it was a perfect night,’’ Boone said. “I think everyone in the room was honored to be part of the evening. I think our players really felt the emotion of the day, and they could feel the emotion in the building. …

“It was great. Weather-wise, perfect. Packed to the gills. The different chanting and cheering. The ‘USA’ chants. It felt like a unified crowd.

“It was nice to be part of other than a couple of idiots jumping over a wall and running onto the field.’’

Play was stopped twice with two different men running onto the field, circling around on the outfield grass, with one being body-slammed and the other slipping.
A fan runs onto the field in the sixth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and New York Mets at Citi Field.

No matter, it was still a night the Yankees and Mets say they’ll forever remember with the emotional and poignant tribute on the field.

The two teams were lined up on the field in front of their dugout at 7 p.m. ET, walked towards one another 20 minutes later, embraced, and then stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the foul lines, showing that they’re all in this together.

“It was definitely emotional,’’ Gardner said. “At the end of the day, we are all part of the same team, all part of the city.’’

The only difference is that the team in the Bronx has won 27 World Series championships.

The one in Queens has only two titles, and none since 1986.

Togetherness or not, the Yankees aren’t about to pass the torch to the Mets.

“This was for the city, this was for Yankees fans, for everyone affected on this day,’’ said Judge, wearing an NYPD cap. “We represent the city of New York, and we represent this state.’’

Little wonder why Judge couldn’t even describe how it felt when he hit his two home runs, soaring around the bases, and thinking of the fans in the stands who lost loved ones during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I don’t even remember running around the bases,’’ Judge said. “All I could think about was the city and the people that weren’t there. When I was out there on the field, I would think about the fans that weren’t there, individuals that lost family members.

“I was just honored and blessed to be out there on the field.’’