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Yankees' Speedster Comes Off Bench, Plays Huge Role in Walk-Off Win

New York Yankees utility man Tyler Wade scored the winning run on a walk-off single from Aaron Judge, clinching a berth to the American League Wild Card Game.

NEW YORK — Walking toward home plate, moments before sending the Yankees to the Wild Card Game with a walk-off single, Aaron Judge looked down to third base at Tyler Wade.

The slugger is known for his prodigious blasts at the plate, testing the limits of Statcast with blistering line drives to all fields, but with a speedster standing 90 feet away from a ticket to the postseason, Judge had one thing in mind.

Put the ball in play.

"All I was thinking was if you just put it in play, I know that man is gonna score down there," Judge said after New York's dramatic 1-0 win. "He's got speed, great instincts on the base path and that was a special moment. Right when I made contact I knew. I was like 'we got a chance here.'"

Judge's intuition was spot on. Even a line drive deadened by Andrew Kittredge's glove, picked up quickly by Brandon Lowe at second, was enough to score Wade, who said he was running on contact no matter what. 

"My mindset was get a good jump," Wade said. "Infield was in. I knew if he elevated it, I was gonna score, but I was just making sure that I got a good enough jump that if it was put on the ground in the infield that I was able to beat the throw."

Wade has never been a shining star on the Yankees, enduring turnover each year thanks to his elite speed and boundless defensive versatility. Even if he's been on the bench for a significant chunk of his five-year tenure with the Bombers, waiting for his number to be called, Judge made it clear that Wade is a key piece on this team. 

"He's been a big part of this," Judge said. "His numbers may not show it and he may not get the recognition that a lot of the guys do, but he puts his work in every single day and shows up ready to go."

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Sunday was the perfect example. Summoned off the bench to run for Rougned Odor after his leadoff single in the ninth inning, Wade advanced to second on a fly ball to center field. 

There aren't many players on this Yankees team that would've been able to slide into second safely there. Knowing that Rays left-hander Josh Fleming is quick to the plate, and hard to steal on, Wade recalled telling himself that the fly ball to the warning track was his best shot to swipe a bag.

After nearly scoring on a base hit from Anthony Rizzo, holding up at third base, Wade was ready to cap off a special moment for his long-time teammate.

"That's my guy," Wade said of Judge. "For all the milestones he's completed, that's his first career walk-off. That's the guy you want up in that situation. He's got a slow heartbeat right there and I couldn't be happier for him, send us to the playoffs. He works his butt off every single day."

Crossing home plate, igniting a roar from a boisterous crowd in the Bronx, Wade absorbed the adrenaline rush in an unforgettable moment. 

"The energy was amazing," he said. "Through the ups and downs of everything, just to be able to accomplish that at home in front of these fans, it was amazing."

Sunday's game-winning run wasn't the first time Wade made an impact in a pinch-running situation. Tacking on one more in Game 162, Wade has 12 runs scored as a pinch runner this season. That's the most in the Majors.

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