The Yankees' Aaron Judge reacts as he runs to first...

The Yankees' Aaron Judge reacts as he runs to first base on his game-winning, wild card-clinching single against the Rays during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Early Sunday afternoon, Aaron Boone declared the Yankees "ready to roll" for the "great opportunity" that presented itself later in the day.

Win and the Yankees would advance to the American League wild-card game scheduled for Tuesday night, regardless of what the three other teams contending for a wild-card spot did.

Lose and, well, there were almost too many scenarios to digest, among the least palatable a Monday trip to Toronto for a wild-card "play-in" game.

Aaron Judge made sure that wouldn't be necessary. The righfielder, hands-down the club’s MVP this season, delivered a walk-off RBI single with one out in the ninth to give the Yankees a 1-0 postseason-clinching victory over the Rays in front of 40,409 at the Stadium.

Gerrit Cole will be on the mound when the Yankees play the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Tuesday night in the wild-card game. Boston advanced to the postseason with a 7-5 victory over the Nationals, who had led 5-1 after five innings. Rafael Devers' second homer of the game and 38th of the season, a two-run shot in the top of the ninth, helped the Red Sox avoid a play-in game against the Blue Jays on Monday.

Both teams finished at 92-70, but the wild-card game will be at Fenway Park because the Red Sox won the season series, 10-9. The Yankees swept Boston in a three-game series there last weekend, nearly costing their ancient rival a playoff spot, and won nine of the final 12 games between the teams after the Red Sox won the first seven.

"Wow," Judge said when asked his thoughts about the one-game, win-or-go-home game against the Yankees’ biggest rival. "That’s going to be a fun game right there. It’s going to be action-packed. It’s just going to go down as another great game in this big rivalry that we have."

Somewhat remarkably, given the number of big hits in his Yankees career, it was Judge’s first career walk-off hit.

"A great season for Aaron Judge capped off fittingly," Boone said.

At the time of Judge’s hit, the Yankees did not know their opponent for Tuesday, as they were awaiting the results of the Red Sox-Nationals game in Washington. A Red Sox win meant heading to Boston for Tuesday’s wild-card game; a Red Sox loss, coupled with the Blue Jays' victory over the Orioles on Sunday, would have meant Boston playing in Toronto on Monday, with the winner coming to the Bronx on Tuesday. Boston's rally made much of the chaos predicted for the final day of the regular season moot.

The Rays (100-62), who coasted to the AL East title and who already had wrapped up the No. 1 seed, will play the wild-card winner in the best-of-five Division Series, which will begin at Tropicana Field on Thursday.

The Yankees' Aaron Judge hits the game-winning, wild card-clinching single...

The Yankees' Aaron Judge hits the game-winning, wild card-clinching single against the Rays in the ninth inning Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Entering the ninth, Rays pitchers had held the Yankees to one hit and had faced two batters above the minimum, thanks to two double plays.The Yankees collected their second hit when Rougned Odor led off against lefty Josh Fleming with a single to center. With Gleyber Torres up, Tyler Wade came in to pinch run. Torres flied out to the warning track in right-center, which allowed Wade to tag and go to second. Anthony Rizzo lined a single to right, but the ball was hit so hard that third-base coach Phil Nevin held Wade at third.

In came righty Andrew Kittredge to face Judge, who fell behind 1-and-2. Two pitches later, he lined a slider back up the middle off Kittredge's glove. It dribbled toward the right side of the infield and Wade beat second baseman Brandon Lowe's throw home, diving headfirst across the plate with the run that put the Yankees in the postseason.

Wade said he was "running on contact" and that his mindset was "get a good jump" as the Rays pulled the infield in. "That’s the guy you want up in that situation," Wade said. "The Stadium was rocking today. The energy was amazing."

The game’s collective MVP for the Yankees was the pitching staff, beginning with starter Jameson Taillon. Boone went into the game hoping to get only an inning or two out of Taillon, who left a start after 38 pitches and 2 1/3 innings last week after aggravating a partially torn tendon in his right ankle. But Taillon, in Boone’s words "set the tone" in lasting 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and a walk. Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga and Aroldis Chapman took the Yankees home from there, combining to allow three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. The Rays went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base.

The Yankees managed to escape two huge threats and several other jams.

With runners on first and third and one out in the third, Taillon struck out Randy Arozarena and got Wander Franco to line out to leftfield.

With runners on second and third and two outs in the fourth, Joey Wendle pulled a grounder into the hole against Peralta, but second baseman Torres made a diving stop to his left and threw him out.

Ji-Man Choi led off the seventh with a double against Green, and with runners on first and second and two outs, Lowe — who hit three home runs and drove in seven runs on Saturday — fouled out to third against Loaisiga.

With a man on third and one out in the eighth, Loaisiga struck out Nelson Cruz and retired Austin Meadows on a fly to right.

"It’s been a crazy, wild, tough year," Boone said. "Fitting that it would come down to the last day to get in. But I love our group, I love our guys, I love our compete. It hasn’t always been perfect, but we’re ready to take our shot. We know we can beat anyone when we’re at our best."

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