Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah challenges heated Gerrit Cole after Yankees’ Aaron Judge hit by pitch

NEW YORK — As the postseason race heats up, so does temper in baseball’s toughest division.

The Yankees earned a 4-2 win over AL East rivals Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon, but not before tensions boiled over in the fifth inning when Toronto starter Alek Manoah hit Yankees All-Star Aaron Judge with a 92-mile fastball met.

“I’ve been struggling with my sinker for about five or six starts now,” Manoah explained after the game. “I made a pitch and it obviously hit Judge. I looked at him and said, ‘Man, you know, I’m not trying.'”

With a runner open on second and first base, Manoah’s sinker caught Judge in the shoulder, the same spot he’d barely missed earlier in the game. Clearly annoyed, Judge spoke a few words to Manoah as he walked towards the hill.

“[Judge] looked at me and he said, ‘That’s two,'” Manoah said. “In the first inning, I mistakenly threw one up too. But of course in such a situation I try to minimize base runners. So I told him, ‘I’m not trying.’”

Yankees starter Gerrit Cole, suffering Saturday’s loss, emerged from the dugout followed by several teammates during the tense exchange as the judge waved them off. Play was briefly halted, but tempers settled and the judge went to first base. Manoah went over to speak to Judge and seemed to help defuse the situation.

Manoah said he explained to Judge that there had been issues with his command, but Cole’s angry reaction didn’t lose love.

“I find [Judge] understood that. And I think next time Gerrit wants to do something, he can walk past the Audi sign,” Manoah said, referring to the luxury car brand’s logo spray-painted on the turf by the visiting team’s dugout at Yankee Stadium.

When asked if it had anything to do with it being Manoah specifically and if he thought he was trying to hit Judge on purpose, Cole was vague in his post-game comments.

“Not necessarily,” said Cole, who gave up four earned runs over six innings in the Yankees’ 5-2 loss to the Jays on Saturday. “Just a little too much [batters hit by pitch] for my taste. I don’t know what to say.”

Manager Aaron Boone said he didn’t think Manoah’s pitch was intentional but defended Cole’s reaction.

“He doesn’t like our guy being drilled,” Boone said. “Sometimes we get caught up in this intentional thing, if it’s not intentional then it’s okay. Sometimes we have a different perspective on it. When your guy gets hit, it usually gets your attention. I think [Judge] did it great. I thought Gerrit would only stand up for his guy, for our guy. It’s just two divisional rivals playing a lot, a little moment in the game, not much at that.”

The judge, who also said he believed there was no intent, described the incident as the emotional part of the competition.

“It’s the heat of the moment. Nobody likes to get hit,” Judge said. “Everyone watches the game, everyone is there. No matter who gets hit, everyone will take offense. Dugout had a few things to say and then we move on.”

Regarding the disclosure of his conversation with Manoah, Judge said, “We’re going to keep it private.”

And with the Yankees losing 14 of their previous 17 games and trying to end a three-game losing streak and avoid a sweep, Judge said his focus was clear.

“At first you’re mad, and I was mad, but I didn’t need someone else kicked out for me to get hit. I just wanted to move on to the next piece,” Judge said. “I know [Anthony] Rizzo had a big attack behind me. I’d be a little happier if I had a few runs instead of us fighting out there. … We took care of business and moved on.” Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah challenges heated Gerrit Cole after Yankees’ Aaron Judge hit by pitch

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